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  1. Vanna Heller

    Vanna Heller Member

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    How Do You Describe A Castle?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Vanna Heller, Nov 20, 2020.

    So the main setting in my novel takes place in a castle, and I am having trouble describing what each room in the castle would look while showing and not telling... Thoughts?
     
  2. Vanna Heller

    Vanna Heller Member

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    One of the characters in my novel secretly explore each room in the castle, so that's why I am asking.
     
  3. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    What kind of castle is it?
     
  4. Vanna Heller

    Vanna Heller Member

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    What would you recommend? I'm not entirely sure, but a Royal family lives in it.
     
  5. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Supporter Contributor

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    Real medieval castles were stone, cold, and pretty dank, if it was a military castle. That's why royal families tended to relocate to palaces.

    However, try Googling "Windsor Castle interior" for what a "fairy tale castle"'s interior might look like.
     
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  6. Vanna Heller

    Vanna Heller Member

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    Okay, thank you
     
  7. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Also, who is doing the describing in the story? Just a 3rd omniscient narrator who is free to describe everything and anything, or is it a 3rd limited narrator, or a 1st person narrator? If it's one of the latter two, then we must know who this is and what this castle means in this person's life. The prince who lives within, bored to tears at the tedium and restrictions of courtly life, will give a significantly different description (be it through dialogue or narrative) than the pauper who only just secured a job inside these majestic realms.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020
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  8. MartinM

    MartinM New Member

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    Just an idea...

    So, take any castle from anywhere. The outside setting and that impression it leaves with the explorer. Dark blue-grey stone walls, high towers with small slit like windows. Now the internal structure will reflect this outside image. It must for continuity.

    Every room wall facing will have that stone and small window. There will be absolute commonalty throughout its internal structure. Thus, the differences in each room can be extenuated more. From dungeon to King’s bedroom they all have the same stone walls... The reader must feel the common of each room to then reveal its uniqueness.

    One room with a white tiled floor, sandstone walls and brightly lit through floor to ceiling windows would look and feel out of place. If that makes sense?

    Look at The Crown S4 when Thatcher goes to Balmoral. The stags head on the wall in the dinning room gives a cold dark feel even with an open fire...

    MartinM
     
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  9. Vanna Heller

    Vanna Heller Member

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    It's a 3rd omniscient narrator, but I am thinking of changing it to a 1st person narrator.
     
  10. Vanna Heller

    Vanna Heller Member

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    Your castle description would fit, since the royal family is of vampires, but that sounds a lot like a cliche so I'm thinking more of a palace.
     
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  11. Vanna Heller

    Vanna Heller Member

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    Oh, and I forgot to mention that the novel itself is taking place in Romania.
     
  12. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    for a fairytale castle, check out Dunrobin castle:

    [​IMG]

    Not a true castle but as others have said, a stately home which is built for comfort and luxury. Still strikes an imposing presence though. And the family that lived there were evil, to boot!


    Oh, since you said that, this is the castle you want:

    It had nothing to do with Dracula in reality. It guarded a pass in the Carpathian Mountains and English mercenaries were stationed there during the medieval era. (The Teutonic Order built it) It was renovated in a neo-romanticist style (I think) so it's not gothic dracula, it's more like Romania's answer to the Disneyland castle and is very beautiful. The Royal Family took their summer retreats there - kind of like the Balmoral Castle for King Carol I.

    [​IMG]

    All your fairytale castles kind of owe their existence to Neuschwanstein Castle, which gets an honourable mention from me.

    Definitely key to distinguish between a real true medieval castle and a romanticist interpretation of a castle - and fantasy tends to take lots of tropes from the latter.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020
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  13. Vanna Heller

    Vanna Heller Member

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    Awesome! Thank you so much, This is perfect!:)
     
  14. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    I personally love Bran castle because it hits the style you seem to be after and is also a totally legitimate castle. :)

    Also you might find this one interesting, Peles castle, also in the Carpathians in Romania, which is a neo-renaissance castle:

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. Vanna Heller

    Vanna Heller Member

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    Wow, yeah I think I will use this one. Thanks again
     
  16. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    I would try to find a movie partially set inside a castle like the one you want to use, or maybe you can find a video tour on YT or something, so you can get a feel for what it's like to move through the rooms and corridors. Also think about similar experiences you've had in large, imposing buildings, maybe a museum or something.

    But I would be careful with trying to describe each room one by one. They're all going to be the same in many regards, maybe different shape or size and furnishings. But I wouldn't go into a detailed visual description of individual rooms. Personally I like to limit descriptions as far as possible, ultimately to a word or 2 added to several sentences.

    Example: He set off across the vast expanse of polished marble, keeping to the ornate rugs when possible to muffle the echoing footfalls.This doesn't stop the forward momentum of the story, but gets in a little of the feel of the room-space. I mean, that's a horrible sentence, I used 'the' far too many times. Think of it as a really bad first draft sentence.

    But my point is to pepper little snippets of description into your writing, rather than stop to do a description.
     
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  17. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere... Contributor

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    Start with a blank slate. Don't assume you know what a castle looks like or is like. Game of Thrones probably has one of the most inaccurate looks of castles ever. "But they filmed on location. How can it be inaccurate?" That's the issue. The camera angles and such distorts the actual dimensions of certain rooms and areas. Throne rooms were not as big as you think.

    Instead, consider looking for 3D recreations of historical sites. Ubisoft has recently recreated Ancient Greece and Egypt to historic fidelity. And this company here has some 3D recreations as well. https://www.sputnik7.com/

    You also may want to consider getting into video games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance which gives you an accurate representation of what castles were like. Did you know that the drab gray interiors of a castle were not what they were like? Castles were actually painted on the interior and quite colorful.
     
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  18. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    Interesting. Like Greek statues, which we're used to seeing colorless and broken.
     
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  19. DriedPen

    DriedPen Member

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    Late to the party as always, but when I think of a real medieval castle, I think of Bunratty Castle in Ireland.
     
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  20. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere... Contributor

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    Exactly. Humans love color. Drap color pallets was never a thing. People's clothing and such were always rich with color.
     
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  21. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    If it's the setting for most or all of the book and the character is exploring rooms you can do it very much one by one. I would advocate not to be too minimalist, minimalism in descriptions is safe but it's not very interesting. Taking the scenes one by one, or certainly not all at once, you can get in quite a bit of description as long as it seems spaced-out and appropriate. Therein a key part is using description for a reason, to convey atmosphere, themes, aspects of who the designers and inhabitants of a place are and what it means to them. And you can incorporate description into plot; if the character is exploring they can notice things, react to them, touch, feel, smell. They might be given some form of tour or explanation of some features at some point, or learn something about where a certain object came from. There's a lot of things you can use description for and ways description can be added.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020
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  22. DriedPen

    DriedPen Member

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    I am like Oscar in that I think descriptions have their place. There are a couple of ways you can do this.

    Lets say I am writing my initial story and a character walks into a barn. Instead of stopping right then and trying to figure out what I am going to describe or how. I might type in "Description of Barn" make it a title 2, and then keep going. That way in my navigation pane in Microsoft Word, I can see, in say chapter 3, I have to go back and describe that barn better. In that way I do not stop my writing mo-jo at the time to get the details right.

    Another thing I might do is give the barn a light, generic explanation, and then later in editing, flesh it out. This works good because not all settings have to be deeply described. Just using the right senses, in the right places, creates the illusion of a reader being right there. But not all settings need that level of involvement for a reader, other wise it bogs down the story.
     
  23. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    Beginners have a tendency to want to over-describe everything, and they do it by stopping the story dead in its tracks. I do agree with you @Oscar Leigh and @DriedPen that description has its place, but it's important to first learn not to bring the story to a screeching halt, and that there are ways to get across the look or feel of a place or a thing without parking the story on the side of the road and doing a top-to-bottom description.
     
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  24. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    In general, most rooms would be as @Naomasa298 said. The exception would be the "Grand Hall" or its equivalent, that is the place where feasts were held and receptions made - as such had a diplomatic function, it would be, well, grand. Think the Great Hall of Hogwarts. Living quarters of the people who owned the castle and other high-status personnel would also be, if nothing else, rather colourful - medieval people loved vivid colours - and relatively cozy. For most other people (servants etc.), yeah - drab and dank.

    You might want to read through these:
    https://www.castlesandmanorhouses.com/life_01_rooms.htm
    https://www.exploring-castles.com/castle_designs/medieval_castle_layout/
    http://www.castlewales.com/life.html
    https://sites.google.com/site/medievaltimescastles/home/castle-architecture
    https://sites.google.com/site/wwwcastlecentralcom/research-about-a-real-location
    https://www.medieval-castle.com/

    EDIT: You should also figure out whether you want your castle to be "castle as a palace", "castle as a seat of a lord/governor/etc." or "castle as a military fortress". Furbishment of the interior could be different depending on function, though, I suspect, not massively so.
     
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  25. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I would use a lot of brutal terminology. Brutal as in the concrete architecture style, not brutish behavior. Grey, oppressive, rough angles, unfriendly...
     

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