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Or are they?

You know the ones I mean.  Those little throw-away details which don’t actually contribute to the plot.  Like this one, from the article I was talking about yesterday:

The experts assembled by the Hansard Society, in a windowless conference room in an obscure corner of the Parliamentary estate, were divided on this one.

Does it matter that the conference room had no windows?  I can’t think of any reason for it to affect anything that follows.  Likewise it doesn’t really matter that the conference room was in an obscure corner.  What matters is that experts were assembled to discuss the issue, and that they were divided.

Except that the little details contribute to the overall feel of the piece.  We know, from those few words, that the meeting was not the most important that went on that day.  It has the feel of being slightly hidden, slightly shunned by most normal folk.  The idea they were discussing is not taken seriously by parliamentarians.

What little details have you included in your work lately, to build atmosphere, or give background information to your readers?

When you first come up with an idea for a novel, what comes first?  The Plot?  The Characters?  Or the Situation?  I often find that the situation comes first, characters next, and plot last.  For example:

  • Wouldn’t it be interesting if we lived in a world where there were two dominant species on the planet?
  • Hmmm, I wonder what sort of person would be interesting to read about in a world like that?  Maybe someone of mixed heritage.  Or someone who started being a species-ist and ends up in love with one of the Others.
  • How would that even happen?  I guess they would have to be doing something that put them into contact with the other species, maybe they’ve been re-assigned at work and their new partner is the other species, or…

And so it continues.  Usually the first few plots that spring to mind are a bit lame.  Sometimes it takes days of percolating in the back of my mind to get something useable.  I don’t recall ever having come up with a plot first and then found the world and characters that fit it.

How does it work for you?

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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