Step three from Martha’s workshop: describe the setting of the beginning part of the book.
Let me stop for just a moment and say that Martha’s method divides books into three parts: beginning (first 25%), middle (next 50%), and end (final 25%). The task for this step is to describe the setting for that initial one-quarter.
The main action for my story takes place in an old house on a quiet, tree-lined street near the center of an old Virginia town.
The town itself was founded in colonial times and grew over the years. The central area has several streets with small businesses, shops, and restaurants, all in old 18th- and 19th-century buildings; this core area is surrounded by a ring of old residential streets with houses of varying ages and sizes. The further one goes from this central core, the more modern the neighborhoods — and it doesn’t take long to get to very modern developments.
All of the houses up and down the street where my character lives date from the 19th century, with about a third predating the Civil War. This neighborhood has a diverse set of residents, from families with young children to older folks who have lived in their homes for decades to newly retired couples who want to be able to walk to restaurants and town activities. Regardless of age or background, all love the neighborhood’s character and its nearness to the center of town.
The original part of my character’s house is well over 150 years old. Over the years, previous owners added on, building most notably an extra wing with a master bedroom suite upstairs and directly underneath it, a family room with a wide fireplace and two broad bay windows on opposite sides of the room. The house also includes a partial cellar and a third-story walk-in attic.
The front of the house is close to the sidewalk, as are most of the older houses in the neighborhood, with a large magnolia to the side. The back yard is lovely — a grassy area with big, old trees and shrubs along the sides and a small garden shed to the back. Along both sides of the yard are wooden privacy fences, which give a secluded feel to the property.
Step Four is also about the setting, but this time the setting of the middle part of the story. For my story, this will be the same as at the start — the old house in the old neighborhood — but involves my character and her husband discovering a walled-up room along one side of the cellar. How exactly do they discover it? Well, that’s still a bit of a challenge. Do they start renovating the cellar and realize one wall is an interior add-on? Do they dig out old boxwood shrubs from the front and side of the house and find bricked-up windows along the basement foundation? Some other way? Hmmm…. have to work on that one.