The process of writing a novel involves many steps. From plot to characters to setting, all the elements must be there, no matter what order you work on them. For most historical fiction writers, my guess would be that setting comes first. Here at The Damsels, we’ve even talked about other time periods we’d like to write about. (Click on the History category below right to see those posts.) But upon thinking about this, I realized that I had developed the plot of my historical fantasy novel before I decided where I wanted the action to take place.
I could have plopped this plot down just about anywhere in history. It would have been a completely different story if I had, but I chose the late-Victorian era because I’ve enjoyed reading novels of that time period. I wanted the setting to be in Europe, but not England, since so many Victorian stories are based there (see, there was this queen named Victoria). Anyway, I’ve been fortunate to have traveled some in Europe and knew I wanted a small city to base my fictional town on.
Enter Bruges, Belgium.
This city of approximately 120,000 people has a historic city center that is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. When I visited many years ago, I fell in love with its canals, the medieval architecture, and the windmills. What better place to set a fantasy novel?
Below are some photographs of Bruges, including a few from the Library of Congress that date between 1890 and 1900. It seems only the clothing and mode of transportation have changed. Enjoy!