Friday, November 1, 2013

Resonance of Real Settings

by Scott Eder
copyright 2013

Have you ever read a book and wanted to leap into the pages to experience the glorious settings first hand? The beautiful prose of a fully realized environment transports the reader to stunning locales alongside the characters, evoking smells and sounds, sights and emotion, providing a safe environment in which to vicariously experience the thrills of the story. When reading, The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkein, who didn't want to explore the lush greens and pastoral comfort of The Shire, or the lofty spires and breathtaking elegance of Rivendell? I'd love to scuff my dwarf-made boots through the venerable halls of Erebor, after Smaug's demise of course, drinking in the majesty of the dwarven heritage.

Thanks to Peter Jackson and his movies, we can experience The Shire in New Zealand. How cool is that? A trip Down Under is definitely on my bucket list. But what about the other amazing fantasy worlds we've come to love? Shannara, Midkemia, Earthsea, Discworld, The Land, Oz, Narnia…the list goes on. Sure, we can visit those places in our heads, imagining glorious treks across primitive, and sometimes hostile, environments, all from the relative safety of our favorite reading spot.

What about the fantasy stories that occur in the here and now using real-life locations as the backdrop? Depending on to whom you speak, these types of books fall into the contemporary, or urban, fantasy genre. What this means is that the novel is set in an alternate version of our current world, and includes the fantasy tropes we've come to know and love. In some cases, magic is real and fantasy creatures abound. Whatever the author's premise, at least some aspects of the story are grounded in bona-fide places. Jim Butcher uses an alternate version of Chicago, much like Kim Harrison explores Cincinnati, utilizing existing landmarks to resonate within the reader's own experience.                    

By resonance, I mean something within the story strikes a familiar chord with the reader, broadening the meaning of the words on the page to make them more personally impactful, and enriching the overall experience. Hmm, that's a mouthful. Let me explain using examples from my debut novel, Knight of Flame, and how some of the real places that appear in the story strike a chord every day. 
I lived in Bradenton, FL and commuted to St. Petersburg for years and years. Every day, when it wasn't fogged in, I drove over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. While crossing over the water, my mind wandered from topic to topic, rarely did it focus on the majesty of that soaring span, or the scenic vista available from the top. I was driving at the time, so partaking of stunning views probably wasn't a good idea, but you get my meaning. All the bridge represented was a means of getting to work. I'll admit that on occasion I did see dolphins swimming in the bay, which was pretty cool.

Enter Develore Quinteele and Alexander Gray, two characters from Knight of Flame. I won't give any spoilers here, but there's an epic battle atop the bridge, magic and mayhem galore. And it happens on the same bridge I crossed every day on my way to work. Granted I live these stories now, but I can't see the bridge without thinking of the characters and what happened. It's like a mental souvenir of the story. Perhaps a commuter, driving over the bridge after having read Knight of Flame, would think of that battle, maybe replay it in her head while stopped in traffic, imagining what she would do if that battle broke out across the span. If nothing else, thoughts like that can liven up an otherwise boring commute.  

The same holds true for the Regions Bank building in downtown Tampa. It's the tallest skyscraper in the Tampa skyline. I don't think it's a spoiler to say it's the building where I set Alexander Gray's office, the local headquarters for Daegon Gray. On a clear day, its green-peaked roof can be seen a long way off. Whenever I see it, I picture a corner of the roof opening to admit Gothrodul, Alexander's associate. The simple sight of the building triggers those story memories.

Knight of Flame is but a single story with a few real settings a reader can physically visit. Think of all the other stories out there with real-world settings waiting for the step of the intrepid reader. Explore. Find the author's inspiration, and see how the actual differs from the alternate carefully crafted in the story. Now, get out there.

Have fun,

Against the Shadow, burns a noble light.

Since he was a kid, Scott Eder wanted to be an author. Through the years, fantastic tales of nobility and strife, honor and chaos dominated his thoughts. After twenty years mired in the corporate machine, he broke free to bring those stories to life.

Scott lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida.
Knight of Flame Blurb
Fire. The most chaotic of the primal elements. When wielded properly by the Knight of Flame, it burns like the sun. Otherwise, it slowly consumes the Knight, burning away his control, driving him towards dark deeds.

Stationed in Tampa, FL, Develore Quinteele, sixth Knight of Flame, waits impatiently for the predicted emergence of the last Gray Lord, his Order's ancient enemy. Hampered by a centuries-old tragedy, Dev knows of only one way to control his elemental power—rage. It broils just below his surface, waiting for the slightest provocation to set it alight.

After a brutal attack by the Gray Lord's minions for which Dev is blamed, he's stripped of his freedom until he learns to control his violent impulses. With the help of his fellow Knights, can he balance his rage and unlock his true elemental potential to prevent Tampa's devastation?
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Unknown said...

You are so right. Fantasy benefits tremendously from resonance, because it connects the reader's reality to the story's reality. And I can't think of a more resonant setting that the Sunshine Sky Bridge. I've driven over the bridge many,many times. It's beautiful. All those years of commuting served you well, my friend! What's the name of the next book of the series? Will it take place in Tampa as well?

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Thanks so much for being with us again, Scott. It's an honor to have you!

Scott Eder said...

Dora, the title of the next book is still up in the air (hint,hint). There are two options. And no, it does not take place in Tampa. The Gray Lord has a broad reach, so watch for the setting to expand to other parts of the world.

Scott Eder said...

Aaron, Thanks so much for a having me. Murder by 4 is one of my favorite blogs.