Faber Session 27 – A Sense Of Time and Place

Firstly, HUGE apologies that I’m so behind with e mails and blog comments. I was out all day Friday, then my Internet went down Friday night, and I’ve been out all day today. We’ve luckily got 2 Internet connections in the house so I’m using the boys one at the moment….Engineer coming tomorrow, but in the meantime it’s a bit up and down so please bare with me πŸ™‚

I’m not even gunna begin to tell you how cold it was in London today. When I arrived at 9.10 it was snowing, and it continued to snow until about 4pm. I’m just relieved it didn’t settle, especially as The Hubster was meeting me in Covent Garden after class for dinner.

So today’s class was about “time” and “place” but we also did some work on pitching & synopsis, but I’ll save that for another day πŸ™‚ a really interesting session, especially with all the time frame/structure problems I’ve had with Still.

Some of my notes:

If you can, walk around the place your novel is set. Look for things you normally don’t notice, the tiny details, for example, what’s in the gutters.

Establish how important the setting is in your novel. Is it a minor character, or a major one? The bigger the part it plays, the more detail you need to add.

Don’t forget to remind the reader every so often where they are.

Use all the senses to describe a place. Even if its just a room, that room will have a smell.

Don’t use descriptive comparisons that the reader won’t understand, ie, not everyone knows what a Peony smells like, but will be able to relate to a Rose.

Compare the landscape to emotion but don’t forget if a character is describing a place, the way they feel, and the way they feel about the place will influence the words you use.

When setting your story in the past think about how society was. What they believed in, their morals. For example, someone in the 70’s wouldn’t care about the environment.

WHY is your novel set in the era it is? Do you have a good enough reason?

Be careful when using different time zones that it doesn’t end up too fragmented.

Cloud Atlas and The Hours are good examples of different time frames used successfully.

Read books, newspapers & magazines that were published the year your novel is set in.

Don’t forget that people don’t think in the present, our internal thoughts jump about between past, present and future. Use that when writing from a characters POV.

When writing a chronological story you don’t need to include every day. Jump days, months or weeks if need be.

This gave me a lot to think about….but I’d be especially interested if you guys know of any other examples of novels that use different time frames successfully?

Only a couple more classes left….I’m really gunna miss it 😦

Here’s the view from my class room window today of the British Museum….

Oh, and of course, I bought a couple of books in my lunch hour πŸ˜‰


20 thoughts on “Faber Session 27 – A Sense Of Time and Place

  1. Snow? London? Now? The weather there has been pretty bad this year
    But the British Museum – unfair! (so much wonderful stuff there – so little time)
    Sounds like a very interesting class your notes give lots to consider when writing.
    Are you talking about time zones – like different places in the world during the same year? Or time zones like different periods in history: past, present, future all sliding back and forth? (That last one can make a reader pretty dizzy and lost if characters zap back and forth in time).


    • I know! It’s been awful here, we’re so sick of it 😦

      Thanks honey πŸ™‚ Are yes, thanks for that, I’ve changed “zones” to “frame” so I hope that sounds better πŸ™‚ I meant different periods, not places πŸ˜‰

      Yeah, and that’s why I scrubbed that idea with my novel, version 2 I think it was. Personally, I don’t mind going back and forth so long as I know where I am, but I know a lot of people hate it lol.

      Thanks honey xx


  2. These are many of the details which make me wary of even attempting to write a fiction novel in another area. I do, however, love reading historical romances rich in details that make it easy to picture living in the era being written about. I especially enjoy those set in the middle ages to the colonial period.

    I don’t know when it starts getting warm in England, but it’s been cold here too. We even had snow the first day of spring and the low temperatures through to Wednesday are only to be in the 30s. I’m ready for warmer weather and gardening. πŸ™‚


    • Oh definitely Sabrina!

      I would LOVE to write an historical book, but I’m too chicken! I’m having trouble as it is with my 25 year time span lol.

      Shocking isn’t it! What’s going on with this bloody weather? 😦



  3. Weather – I want to write a letter to complain. Anyone know where I should send it?
    Time slip books — French Lieutenant’s Woman that kind of thing? I think one of the problems is that one of the time frames can be more engaging than the other & the reader resents leaving it….


    • Ha ha ha, oh if only we could Bridget. Us Brits have always talked about the weather, but just recently it seems that everywhere i go i overhear conversations about it lol

      Is the French Lieutenants Woman told in 2 time frames then? I didn’t know that!

      I totally agree! I wish i’d never come up with a story that spans 25 years! lol

      Thanks honey xx


  4. I didn’t use to think about the location much in my stories, but gradually I’ve come to realise that it’s important to have the story set somewhere (even if the somewhere is made up)


  5. A sense of place is something my editor said I was missing. It’s good to have the advice of professionals on the topic. I’ve been told for so long that description kills story. It’s hard to overcome that messaging ;(


    • I agree Melanie, there does seem to be so much conflicting info out there. I guess its about finding the happy balance, and of course, how important your setting is to the story.

      Good luck honey xx


  6. I really love time-slip books and my WIP is one as well! Barbara Erskine always does it well in my opinion and so does Kate Morton in The Distant Hours, but I agree that sometimes you don’t want to leave one of the time-frames because you’re enjoying those characters more. That’s my challenge! Thanks again for sharing – I look forward to your Faber reports so much!


    • Oooooo, thanks Bel, i’ll look those up! πŸ™‚

      EXACTLY! I read one recently where the going back in time bit was far more interesting than the current bit lol

      Awwww, thanks honey, but I’m afraid todays blog post was the last one, well, apart from a guest tutor on the 15th. Im sad its all over 😦



  7. So your classes are Saturday? I always thought they were Monday for some reason, and yeah, I heard about the snow. And internet – don’t get me started!! Time and place yep difficult topics. My story, if it ever gets edited, takes place over various time periods also. I really must get an outside office with the husband retired now also.

    Your first point – gutters – good one! I took a walk in a park and realised it would be a good setting for one of my scenes so I whipped out pen and paper which I always carry and wrote it all down

    Good notes!

    PS I did write an historical – it was fun doing the research and I had a great woman help with details


    • No, you were right Sue, Mondays, then 1 Saturday each month πŸ™‚

      Oh wow, good for you with the park! πŸ™‚ I really must do the same with my settings, but its so blooming cold 😦

      Writing in 2 time frames is hard don’t you think? πŸ˜‰

      Good for you for doing historical! I just KNOW that if i did i would get so carried away on the research that the book would never get written lol

      Thanks honey xx


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