Conflict Via the Character Known as Setting

Describing setting is often a struggle for me, yet I recognize its importance as a character. That’s why, when I developed the island nation of Pannulus, I focused on worldbuilding that’d create worthy settings. There’s no finer example than Cape Caprice.

Having revised Protecting the Pneuma Key and Case of the Deadly Stroll, I’ve moved on to yet another Pannulus novel, Stealing Light. It was actually the first of the four Pannulus novels.

In short, I wanted Cape Caprice to be the most haunted setting imaginable. I achieved that via a mixture of climate, geography, history, and magic.

Pannulus 2020D

Pannulus. ©2020 CA Hawthorne

The climate is influenced by the geography, of course, but not entirely. The geography is a mix of bogs, cliffs, dense forest, and hills crammed together. The history is bizarre and could be its own book. The issues with magic there are (mostly) because of the Mysquanmic (Magic) Vortex in the gulf, the cape the closest land to it.

All these elements influence one another. They also influence any characters who venture there. Any extreme and strange setting is destined to sit with everyone differently.

The aforementioned vortex influences most aspects of life in Pannulus from airship navigation (difficult) to the birthrate (extremely low). The closer to it you are the stronger its effects.

All the more so if you possess a gift of magic.

Cape Caprice

Detail of Cape Caprice. ©2020 CA Hawthorne

So, of course, because the cape is the closest land to the vortex, I placed a prestigious school for the gifted there.

It’s always been my belief that if I throw together the right characters, a story’s conflict writes itself. Thus, in Stealing Light, I created a group of seven students, all of them elite in their particular specialty (zycons). There are only seven specialties possible, two of them rare.

Given Thornwillow School for the Gifted is a boarding school, all seven are housed together on a single floor and remain as such for all their time there. Meanwhile, Tharlise Martavien acts as their den mother/mentor and is also a gifted teacher.

So, yes, seven teens, seven gifts, and seven different personalities coming from diverse backgrounds and locations. I then place them all in a setting no one would be prepared for. 

When Tharlise first travels to the cape, she’s with Braith Karthington, a member of a secret organization. A city girl who’s a professor at the university, the cape represents the exact opposite of the metropolis of Arthune…

Her geography insisted there were rugged, rocky hills hidden in the inhospitable mass of nature. Beasts, bugs, and twisted monstrosities had to abound owing to magic so thick she could serve it on a platter.

Oh how she missed her flat in Arthune.

The motokar passed over a stone bridge, the creek beneath taking an immediate, screaming plunge over the cliff. The marsh gave way to sculptured grounds brushed with fog.

No wonder Braith moved away.

Tharlise is thirty-three. In contrast, there are the views of a fifteen year-old’s first trip to the cape. That teen is Vistanna, who enters Tharlise’s life early in the novel.

Vistanna possesses the most rare gift. A lumen, her ability is linked to light, dark, and shadow. Her moods reflect her ability…

The drive was slow and winding and passed through small, rustic, and oh so creepy Mystic Hollow on the south side of the harbor. The land was gloomy and uneven. It drizzled and drizzled.

Like she did inside.

Thankfully, it became worse, the narrow lane contorting around boulders and rotting, fallen trees. It crossed streams, skirted bogs. In the hush, the forest whispered that it was ancient beyond comprehension.

The place was ghastly.

Why, then, did it feel like home?

She waved a hand through all the moisture and humidity and—something else.

Haze drifted and swirled, ghosts alerted to her presence and anxious to glimpse her face. The woods stirred. The trees quivered without a breeze.

Cape Caprice, it turns out, is fickle in how it treats those in its midst. It’s also the perfect location for seven curious teens who’re shunned by the other students because of their elite status.

Vistanna’s origins are traced in Stealing Light, but the other six each have their own novelette. Tharlise knows the deadly truths about the group. It’s up to her to keep them safe, which means making them family.

A squabbling family who are also at odds with their environment.


About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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