Holiday Short Stories By WWK Authors Presented This Season:

11/30 KM Rockwell's "Holiday Summons"
12/06 "Death By Dictionary" by Gloria Alden
12/12 E. B. Davis's "The Christmas Tree"
12/18 "Femme Fatally Yours" by Paula Gail Benson
12/24 Kara Cerise's "The Ho-Ho Plan"
12/30 "Last Minute Shopping" by Shari Randall

Put A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman on your holiday list. Three WWK authors have short stories in this Mozark Press anthology. Look for "Moving On" by Paula Gail Benson, "Sauna" by KM Rockwell, and "Wishing For Ignorance" by E. B. Davis. Paper or eformat are available at Amazon.

Gloria Alden has released the fourth book, The Body in the Goldenrod, in her Catherine Jewel series. It's available in print and in eformat. Here are two links to the book: Amazon and Kobo. Put it on your "TBR" or Christmas list!

Carla Damron's latest project, THE STONE NECKLACE, a literary novel about five lives that intersect, and are forever changed, by a senseless accident, has been picked up by Story River Books for publication in 2016. Story River is an arm of the University of South Carolina Press and is under the leadership of editor-in-chief author Pat Conroy. Congratulations, Carla!


A great stocking stuffer, Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays is available at Wildside Press or Amazon. This anthology includes short stories by WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances").
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Monday, April 9, 2012

Prefacing Your Work

I’ve set my novel on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The chain of five islands stretch from north to south paralleling the coastline of the state. Bodie, Roanoke, Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands are inhabited. Portsmouth, the fifth and most southern island, was at one time inhabited, but the decline in commerce and the population left the island uninhabited in 1971. In 1976, the National Park Service took the island under its protection.

My novel takes place on Bodie and Hatteras Islands, but it includes references to Ocracoke and Pea Islands. Pea Island? I haven’t mentioned that one as part of the Outer Banks, and therein lies part of my problem. Pea Island is only a part-time island located on the northern tip of Hatteras Island. Due to the transient nature of the Outer Banks, storms cut through the land creating islands, but then, the ocean fills in the storm cuts eliminating island demarcations.

In the map I’ve provided, there is no mention of Pea Island even though everyone calls the northern tip of Hatteras Island—Pea Island. It is Wildlife Refuge also protected by the National Park Service. In September of 2011 after Hurricane Irene created cuts, engineers were constructing a new bridge from the renewed Pea Island to Hatteras Island. They found an old bridge buried underneath the new cut. Historically it has been an island, although just a year ago it wasn’t.

Because of this unique geography, I’ve found my fiction stumbles when trying to describe it to readers in a way that doesn’t take them out of the story. In mystery novels I’ve read, especially English mysteries, writers often provide map prefaces showing the geographic setting, a region or a town map that includes structures important in the novel. I’ve wondered if I should include such a preface to my novel.

I have mixed feelings about map prefaces. I’ve found them extremely helpful in the past, after all a picture is worth a thousand words, and yet I feel a bit irritated by them too, because what I want to do when I pick up a novel is read, not study a map. In a way, it’s an authorial cheat. But then, graphic novels seem in vogue even if I’m not considering the full graphics of this stylized fiction. I also become irritated by maps because I’m being given a glimpse into the story before the story begins.

In the narrative or dialogue, explaining the geography feels like information dumping. My characters know the geography so explaining the geography is outside of their POV. I could invent a visitor for my characters to explain it to, but my characters don’t work for the Chamber of Commerce and that dialogue would be pointless in terms of advancing the plot.

In my imagination, I envision my preface to have one map, a tiny explanation and references to other sources of information on the Outer Banks. Would this offend you? Is it a cheat?

11 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I love maps and never consider them a cheat but rather an extra texture the author provides me to help ground the story.

In quests they often show the path as well as markers for significant stops along the journey. These are fine with me as well as long as they don't give away the story.

If the map is from a real place, then I expect judicious pruning of the extraneous. If the map is of a made-up world, I want only the highlights.

Spare and clarifying should be the mapmaker's guiding principles -- at least in my book.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

Thanks for the endorsement, Jim. I hesitate, and yet, my critique partners seem confused at times when my main character travels through the islands. The Outer Banks are a hard place to describe because, due to the nature of islands, they change.

But my other questions are: Do maps cost the publisher more? Would having a map change an editor's mind about publishing my work?

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I don't think a map costs anything extra as long as it's black and white.

You'll create it as a jpeg file (or the equivalent) and they will place it in the right spot in the word document (or equivalent).

~ Jim

Linda Rodriguez said...

EB, I think the map will help the book. Anything that helps to keep your reader in your story and not pulling out, shaking his head with confusion.

Maps are not uncommon in historical fiction, especially. If black and white, this one shouldn't be a problem for the publisher. Just make sure it's not too detailed. Clear and easy to read are the guidelines.

Good luck!

Gloria Alden said...

I like having maps. I put a post-it
note or a paperclip there so I can easily refer to the map as I'm reading. I think it adds to a sense of place, which I feel is important to a book. I recently read an Elizabeth George book - FOR THE SAKE OF ELENA - that had a map. Alan Bradley also uses maps in his delightful Flavian de Luce series.

I also like a list of characters and a short blurb about them at the beginning, too, especially if there are a lot of characters, but that's not as common as maps.

E. B. Davis said...

Thanks, Linda and Jim--who have experience in the publishing world. With jpg files and electronic layout, I guess a few graphics aren't the bother they once were.

Gloria--Although George is an American, her series is English and many English mysteries contain both maps and other information in the front. Sometimes, the information seems unnecessary, but like Linda said, if a reader is taken out of the story and a map helps, it seems like a good idea.

I think that I may put in a good map. Now where to find one!

Linda Rodriguez said...

EB, there are several American mysteries and historical novels that also use maps.

Also, I just have to brag. B&N's mystery expert just named EVERY LAST SECRET one the month's must-read books--the only debut. (Imagine me happy-dancing around the house and while you're at it, imagine years younger and without the cane.)

Warren Bull said...

EB,

The map in this blog looks good. Could you do an outline of that? In Death on Demand by Carolyn Hart, a character get stranded waiting for the ferry and reads a sign that gives the geography and history of the island setting of the novel. Clever.

I am shocked! Shocked I tell you. that Linda used your blog to brag about her book. You'd never find me bragging that my novel heartland was selected as the book of the day by Killer Nashville, which it was. Dancing around my mother's kitchen.

E. B. Davis said...

Okay you two--BSPing is what this blog is all about--so continue dancing! Congratulations to you both--all deserved and no more whining!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Warren, we'll have to dance a jig together. Congratulations! Killer Nashville! That's fabulous! Spread the word far and wide!

Thanks, EB. It is funny, considering Warren and I both just did whining posts, isn't it?

Warren Bull said...

Perhaps we should all whine more often.