Do authors know their place?

I'm delighted to welcome author Michael Williams to my blog today. He writes about ghosts and myths and mystery and I'm really looking forward to reading his new release about a boy who grows up with otherworldly mentors--Dominic's Ghosts. But first, Michael is going to tell us about Place, Place in Fiction, and how to Know Your Place. Which is excellent timing, because one of our writing group's upcoming prompts is "description." How will we describe our places?

So... over to you Michael, and welcome to my blog.

Place in Fiction:
It’s More Than Simply Setting
by Michael Williams

For the last several years I’ve been fascinated by the subject of how place figures into the stories we tell.  Depending on the writer’s temperament, the place in which a story takes place may have greater or lesser importance, but for almost all of us, it is important, to some degree.  I think there are very few of us who would maintain that it makes no difference whether your novel is set in Norway or in Louisiana: character and atmosphere are influenced profoundly by surroundings, and that influence can’t help but shape the plot and the wider way that the story is told.

People who write speculative fiction, given the genre’s more intensive focus on world-building, are probably more attuned to place than their counterparts in other genres.  We all have heard that setting is a kind of character: it interacts with your other characters, whether human or not human, and writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror may be more attuned to that intimate dynamic.  When we build a world as writers of speculative fiction, we have to attend to its details a little more than a mainstream or realist writer does, for they can assume a common knowledge, a common experience of terrain, whereas we look to more parts of the country to alter or re-invent.

For about four years at the University of Louisville, I have been teaching a course called Perspectives on Place, in which students examine how artistic expressions—primarily visual art, prose fiction, and film—are shaped by the locale out of which they arise. A lot can be learned, I have found, by looking at landscape paintings, and a helpful way to look at those paintings is through a lens provided by the contemporary philosopher Edward Casey.

Casey speaks of three kinds of “re-implacement”.  To illustrate what he means, he talks about what landscape painting does, but I see his categories at work in fiction as well.

1.   “Place at”.  The image is representational, even topographical.  This is an image so faithful to its subject that one could navigate by it.  Maps or 19th century drawings that label locales are good examples of “place at”.

2.   “Place of” draws on representation to suggest at the meaning of a place, through simile, metaphor, symbol.  Poe’s House of Usher comes to mind—the gothic manse that resembles a human head—or Tolkien’s striking contrast of Moria and Lorien in The Fellowship of the Ring.

3.   “Place for” is, according to Casey, “the image as a subject of contemplation.”  I translate this from landscape into prose fiction as the kind of writing that puts you at the scene, that immerses you and makes you present to the world the writer is creating.  Those moments in any great work in which the reader is absorbed by the scene, genuinely feels that he or she “is there”, are the subjects of “place for”.

What you have noticed, no doubt, is that the good writer uses all three of these kinds of re-implacement.  That at our best we slide gracefully from one to the other (none is superior to the others—all are necessary in creating a fictional world).  We use “place at” to give the readers their bearings, “place of” to suggest at the themes and the meanings of the story, and “place for” at those most intense dramatic moments, when the readers can smell the smoke and hear the call of the trumpets, almost as though scent and sound were not words on the page, but vibrant in the air of experience.

You may be one of those writers so closely attuned to the place of your fiction that what I am saying seems like old news; however, if place is an element of your story that you haven’t set your sights to examine, it’s an opportunity to deepen and layer and enrich the tale you are writing.  I ask you to look around you, to know your place.

I feel like I've just listened to a great lecture and taken a tour of many favorite places. Thank you so much, Michael. And now I'll invite our readers to follow you and your novel on a tour of the internet... and to read Dominic's Ghosts!

Get ready to explore a gem of mythic fiction in Michael Williams’ Dominic’s Ghosts Blog Tour. Taking place February 13-20, 2019, this blog tour celebrates a new stand-alone novel in Michael’s ambitious City Quartet.

Atmospheric and thought-provoking, Dominic’s Ghosts will take you on a unique kind of journey that involves a conspiracy, legends, and insights from a film festival!

About the Author:

Over the past 25 years, Michael Williams has written a number of strange novels, from the early Weasel’s Luck and Galen Beknighted in the best-selling DRAGONLANCE series to the more recent lyrical and experimental Arcady, singled out for praise by Locus and Asimov’s magazines. In Trajan’s Arch, his eleventh novel, stories fold into stories and a boy grows up with ghostly mentors, and the recently published Vine mingles Greek tragedy and urban legend, as a local dramatic production in a small city goes humorously, then horrifically, awry.

Trajan’s Arch and Vine are two of the books in Williams’s highly anticipated City Quartet, to be joined in 2018 by Dominic’s Ghosts and Tattered Men.

Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and spent much of his childhood in the south central part of the state, the red-dirt gothic home of Appalachian foothills and stories of Confederate guerrillas. Through good luck and a roundabout journey he made his way through through New England, New York, Wisconsin, Britain and Ireland, and has ended up less than thirty miles from where he began. He has a Ph.D. in Humanities, and teaches at the University of Louisville, where he focuses on the he Modern Fantastic in fiction and film. He is married, and has two grown sons.

Where to find him:

About Dominic's Ghosts:

Dominic’s Ghosts is a mythic novel set in the contemporary Midwest. Returning to the home town of his missing father on a search for his own origins, Dominic Rackett is swept up in a murky conspiracy involving a suspicious scholar, a Himalayan legend, and subliminal clues from a silent film festival. As those around him fall prey to rising fear and shrill fanaticism, he follows the branching trails of cinema monsters and figures from a very real past, as phantoms invade the streets of his once-familiar city and one of them, glimpsed in distorted shadows of alleys and urban parks, begins to look uncannily familiar.

Where to find Dominic’s Ghosts:
Amazon Print Version:

Kindle Version:

Barnes and Noble Link for Dominic’s Ghosts:

Find out more: follow the tour

2/13     Ravenous For Reads  Author Interview

2/13     Breakeven Books  Guest Post

2/14     Marian Allen, Author Lady           Guest Post

2/15     Inspired Chaos  Guest Post

2/16     I Smell Sheep            Guest Post

2/16     The Book Lover's Boudoir         Review

2/17     Jorie Loves A Story    Review/Author Interview

2/18     The Seventh Star            guest Post

2/18     Willow's Thoughts and Book Obsessions            Review

2/18     The Horror Tree             Guest Post

2/19     Sheila's Guests and Reviews            Guest Post

2/20     Jazzy Book Reviews           Top Tens List


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