creativity

How I found the main setting for my third Emerson Page novel

The Fitzwilliam Museum entrance

For me, the setting of a novel is a character. It sets the stage for the action and houses the many revelations of a story. Right now I’m outlining and crafting the story of my third Emerson Page novel. I’ve had some ideas of what will happen but I was struggling with where to place this action. I wanted a spectacular, magical setting. Frustrated that I couldn’t find it, I put it away and focused on something else.

I opened up Google Maps and decided to look at the street view of my walk from Fitzwilliam College, my college at Cambridge University, to the building where I’ll be taking my classes. It’s a winding 30-minute route dotted with shops and eateries tucked into centuries-old architecture through what looks like Diagon Alley. It goes past Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge’s main museum. I looked up some images of the museum and the second I saw the entrance, I knew I’d found the main setting for the novel.

The museum is free for all, houses a spectacular collection of antiquities and rare books and manuscripts, and has a stunning library. It’s exactly what the books needs. Get ready for more museum adventures!

creativity

How research helps writers get unstuck

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Have you ever been in the messy middle of a writing project? It’s the point where you’re not quite sure how to get from the middle of the narrative to the satisfying conclusion you have planned. It feels like you’re in quicksand, unable to clearly see the path forward. Your characters look to you for guidance, you look to them for guidance, and none of you have any answers so you just spin place, or worse—you abandon the project altogether. 

The wisdom and guidance you need to get out of the messy middle is research. Right now I’m working on a historical fiction novel. The main tentpoles of the plot have remained the same but I’ve brought in many new details to make the script come alive. It’s set in an Italian bakery in New York City in 1910, a dynamic and wild time in the city, country, and world. A myriad of historical events would have had an outsized impact on my characters so I have to research that time to get the details just right. It’s a heavy lift, and ultimately worth the time and attention.

I got myself out of that messy middle by digging into The New York Times archive for specific dates and events that figure prominently into the lives of my characters. In that research I found a plethora of information, and that information created the map I needed to find my way to the conclusion. 

If you’re in the messy middle now and ready to throw in the towel out of frustration, take a deep breath and go to the archives. Let history be your guide. Research your way across the channel to safely emerge on shore on the other side. It’s only a matter of time. The world needs your story.