Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Grape Connection

I'm new to here. Being both a writer and a gardener, the name Writer's Vineyard intrigued me, especially since I've been trying to grow grapes for three years. By now I should have fruit, but growing grapes, like writing, is a learning experience. A gardener has to know her soil and climate. My site is fine for grapes, fast draining soil with a south-west exposure. Unfortunately, the vines I chose were only cold hardy to climate zone 5. Instead of developing a strong cane to support the spring's emerging vines, mine died back to the ground every winter. No grapes. While my location is considered zone 5, it is too cold for the grapes I planted.

The situation is similar to a writer not knowing her setting. An outstanding plot with arresting characters often fails when the setting isn't resilient. Have you ever read a historical novel where the character's dialog seemed too modern, or a historical detail was wrong? (I can tell you incorrect historical details drive a history buff crazy.) How about a suspense where you laughed because of the inane police procedure? Or glaring geographical inaccuracies in a romance's setting? Did you finish the story, or decide to never to read anything by that author again?

The setting is like a grape's cane. It supports all the plot's twisting and turning stems and allow the characters to develop into sweet and tasty grapes. And like my gardening, it takes research. Every detail counts. When writing, if you don't know how police react in certain situations, you need to investigate. Yes, basic laws are often similar, but jurisdictions throughout the United States and the world differ.

I'd like to be able to travel wherever needed to actually see the settings for my stories. That would be prohibitively expensive, but it's amazing what information and photographs you can find about any geographical location in the world on the Internet.

This spring I bought new super hardy vines developed by the University of Minnesota. I'm hoping they will develop the strong canes I need to grow grapes. While I wait, hopefully my writing will produce some fruit.

Rhobin L. Courtright, author Stone House Farm, Champagne Books
My web pages
grape banner from


roseanne dowell said...

Interesting anology

Karen McGrath said...

So true, Rhobin. I can't read a novel set in Boston that has inaccurate facts or landscape. I don't expect authors outside of the city to know the intricacies, but yes, I do want them to know the major things or change their setting. Good points and love the fruit analogy.

Pat Dale said...

Here's hoping your work bears fruit, Rhobin. Both in your writing and in your vinyard.

Big Mike said...

Excellent article. Great connection in your theme. Way to go, R.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I agree, an excellent analogy. Nice graphics, too. I'm familiar with vineyards, so I can relate. FYI: on the windy Greek island of Santorini, the grapevines are curled into basket vines so that the blossoms and fruit don't take flight.

Hoping your writing doesn't follow that analogy and does take flight. You write well.


Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

right on, Rhobin. my first thought when I see that kind of accuracy is the writer is lazy. to me, while go to the trouble if you aren't going to make it as good as you possibly can.

Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

oops, should have edited before I posted. should have been why go to the bother, not while. It's late. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Jude Johnson said...

Love the analogy, Rhobin. A good story needs to be nurtured along as well, not rushed, with dead bits pruned off as needed.

Thanks for a new way to look at the process.


Ciara Gold said...

On the flip side, as a writer, I often worry about just that. Did I get all the facts right? I know I sure try to, but conflicting information sometimes makes it difficult.

I have gone on fact finding missions. I went to Stephenville, Texas to get ideas for my fictictional town of Banjo for Sarah's Brass Token. It was a fun day, but alas, going to England will have to wait even though I have one book set there.