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Fairytale/fantasy setting question

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I'm working on a fantasy/fairytale story that my critique group (who doesn't critique children's writing much) thinks doesn't have a specific enough setting. My protagonist is sneaking into a castle to steal something from a witch. I was trying to keep it under 800 words.

Does it need specific time/place? Or can it just be a long time ago, in a kingdom far away? (those words are not actually in my story, that's just how I was thinking of the setting when I wrote it.) How do you give the reader a good feel of setting in so few words?
#1 - October 17, 2015, 02:57 PM

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At under 800 words, I'm assuming this is a picture book? If so, I would expect the illustrations to carry most of the setting. If it's a magazine piece, you may need to add more specifics.
#2 - October 17, 2015, 03:06 PM
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Hi Vonna, it's a magazine piece.
#3 - October 17, 2015, 03:07 PM

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For a magazine piece, you probably want several words or even a couple of sentences that explain the significance of that castle to that character.  In a longer piece for adults, you might need to specify that the castle is in a valley in Romania, built in the 1400's, blah, blah, blah, but kids won't know what that means anyway.  Children are familiar with imaginary worlds.  You need to be specific enough that they can picture this castle--whether rosy marble glowing in the morning sun, or dark, dank, and decaying, with bats swooping and and out of the towers.  Then cut to the chase!
#4 - October 17, 2015, 03:44 PM

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Sometimes this can be done with careful selection of adjectives and verbs. Make us feel the setting by getting all senses involved.
#5 - October 19, 2015, 12:16 PM

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Thanks, everyone, for the advice! I really appreciate it.
#6 - October 20, 2015, 01:41 PM

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With 800 words, you don't have a lot of room to write tons of description about your castle. But I think it's important for you, the writer, to know the castle's background. If you make some choices about the castle, you can find a few details that can be inserted via a few choice words, and that will help your castle feel real rather than generic.

(But I do think your instinct about your critique group's feedback is correct and that children's writing has less description. I wonder if you added some key details if they would feel differently.)
#7 - October 20, 2015, 09:53 PM
« Last Edit: October 20, 2015, 10:17 PM by Christine B. »

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