Building Lang Downs
Writing a novel is a complicated business. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who’s ever tried it. Writing a series is even worse. When you write a novel, you’ve got a cast of people to keep track of, and all of them, even the smallest throwaway role, has a story. Maybe you don’t tell it, but it’s there. When you write a series, you double, triple, maybe even quadruple that, and that’s when you start the second book, much less the third or the *cough*eighth*cough*.
The Lang Downs series isn’t that long, and probably won’t be. I’d thought four books. Now it’s looking like five, possibly six, but they’re all set in the same place, and that means keeping all the details straight. Different people use different strategies, of course, but I like to start with the places people live. They say so much about the person even beyond the obvious. The “big house” in Lang Downs wasn’t Caine or Macklin’s house at the beginning of Inherit the Sky. It was Michael Lang’s house, so it had to represent him, with its comfortable but out of date, slightly threadbare furniture. When we see it again in Chase the Stars, though, it’s begun to represent Caine and Macklin: still comfortable, but new… fresh even, a mirror of the breath of fresh air that Caine brought to the station. The building hasn’t changed, but the furniture has, and that’s their influence. When Sam arrives in Outlast the Night, we see it even more in the office that Sam takes over from Caine. Macklin won’t even let me write his scenes sitting at a computer. It has to be in a notebook and typed later. You know that shiny new computer in Caine’s office wasn’t Macklin’s idea!
I’m not an artist, so you don’t want to see my rendering of the layout of the station, but I have a very rough sketch showing where things are in the valley in relationship to each other. The valley runs east to west with the eastern end a little farther north than the western end. There’s a road running into the center of the station from the western end of the valley. It doesn’t go all the way through, though, because the eastern end is too steep to drive. The bunkhouse is the first building you get to when you drive in on the road. The houses of the year-round jackaroos are scattered along the north side road, with the big house and the foreman’s house on the south side. The road ends at the shearing sheds and paddocks.
Here’s the real question then: does it matter?
Yes. Unequivocally yes. You won’t find the description above anywhere in the three books. Nobody wants to read that. It’s not interesting and it doesn’t add to the movement of the story.
Wait… I just said it mattered and then I said nobody wants to read it. No, I promise I haven’t lost it completely. They don’t want to read that description because it doesn’t add anything to the story, but knowing that, having that map in my head allows me to put things in the story that do add to it and not have to worry about contradicting myself later. Everyone who comes out of the big house going to the bunkhouse turns left. Everyone coming out of the canteen going to the paddocks turns right. Details like that matter because if they’re inconsistent, readers will notice. They start to build a picture in their heads of the setting of the story and even more when it’s a familiar setting from a previous story, and having those details consistent keeps them from being jerked out of the story and getting confused.
Wouldn’t it be a shock to the system if Neil left the foreman’s house intending to go to the shearing sheds and ended up walking in on his brother and Jeremy instead?
Ariel Tachna lives outside of Houston with her husband, her daughter and son, and their cat. Before moving there, she traveled all over the world, having fallen in love with France, where she met her husband, and India, where she hopes to retire some day. She’s bilingual with snippets of four other languages to her credit and is as in love with languages as she is with writing.
Web site: http://www.arieltachna.com
To purchase my books, you can always go to Dreamspinner’s web site, http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com or you can go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, Fictionwise, or Rainbow eBooks, http://www.rainbowebooks.com/store/. I’m sure there are probably other eBook outlets as well, but I don’t go searching for them. Also, if you want to buy the book in print, any bookstore that allows special orders can order the book for you with the title and my name.