WARNING: This may seem REALLY stupid...but I'm fine with that.
Cedar Fort recently accepted my 2nd novel, Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island and it is set to release in March of 2012. Naturally I'm thrilled. This is a mid-grade fantasy set at Crater Lake in the Oregon Cascade mountains.
I've been thinking about the importance of Crater Lake to my novel. It really couldn't be set any place else. There are so many facinating details about Crater Lake that bring life to the story. Wizard Island really is a small volcano sticking out of the water of the crater which was created by the collapse of a massive volcano 7700 years ago. There really is a rock structure in the lake called the Phantom Ship. There really is a place called Danger Cove. These real settings create a realism within the story that allows me greater latitude in building the mythology of my fantasy world. Without the realism and consistency, even in a fantasy world, the story will fall flat.
I recently went to a wax museum with my family. Yes, it was a little creepy but I found myself evaluating each wax figure for authenticity. I had my picture taken next to Angelina Jolie and Jessica Alba (much to my wife's chagrin) and even through the craftsmanship of the wax figures was impressive, they didn't look real. The figures didn't look right and therefore were not believable. So I had my picture taken next to Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff. Guess what--same problem. But then I got my picture taken next to Danny Devito as the Penguin from Batman. Wow. That was a chilling and believable depiction.
So what does a wax museum have to do with a fantasy world set at Crater Lake? In both cases believability matters...alot. The moment I start pointing out problems with the wax figure or the setting of the novel, the magic is gone. The experience becomes empty as the emotion and awe is stripped away because of imperfections and inconsistencies.
I think of other settings that have captured my imagination and to me they often feel more like a main character than simply a place where the story takes place. I think of Hogwarts with its moving stairs, enchanted pictures and roaming spirits. I think of the vibrant Land of Oz, the Bat Cave and the magical Fablehaven. These settings don't simply allow the action to take place, but they push the conflict and action forward. They are not merely the backdrop, they are dead center in the story. Hopefully Crater Lake will be center stage as well.