Setting plays a major role in all my favorite books. I love opening the cover and finding myself in another time, place or dimension. Books transport readers on their words. It’s magical, really, if you think about it. I can trust my favorite authors to whisk me away on a bad day and I love it. I crave it. I want to do that too! I can only hope to come close.
Settings are paramount in most stories, but they aren’t easy to write. I normally write locations I know. Places I can close my eyes and tell a reader everything about because capturing the senses in a place I know is the easy part. From the scent of ash in the air after a bonfire or the lingering reverse cascade of fireflies in the field to the steady roar of wave breaks on the beach, the senses are just the beginning.
Understanding the rules of the setting is equally important for a reader, maybe more important because the rules impact a reader’s perception of the story. Setting is more than the location. Setting is everything from the time of day to the point in history. Setting is a mood. A vibe. A tone the reader latches onto instinctively based on what we share. For example, I’ve never been to dystopian Chicago, but after finishing Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, I plan to visit “Merciless Mart,” the Ferris wheel and the not-currently-dried-up river while I’m in town this weekend. The rules in her novels are stern and imperative for survival. I want to walk the real streets and envision those eerie details she shared with me in her novels. Roth is a world class world builder / setting setter. This is me with appreciation and serious envy eyes.
When I wrote Deceived, I used small town America for the false sense of security. My favorite! Nothing ever happens in rural Ohio, right? Normally, no. Not so much. BUT what if it did? I mean, if you aren’t safe in the Ohio Valley where are you safe? Answer: Nowhere. *evil grin* I loved ripping the safety blanket away from readers. My serial killer, The Reaper, is at large in my novel, closing in on the heels of my teenage heroine who has no idea she’s being stalked, though she certainly knows something is very very wrong. I used setting to my full advantage: roaring rivers to drown out snapping twigs, dark forests to cast shadows and hide killers, even the low light gas lamps were little help to a girl on the run. I thoroughly enjoyed dropping my story into this setting. If I wrote the story again, I’d use this setting every time.
When I write light hearted mysteries, I use my favorite island escape. Small islands are great for community antics, getting to know secondary characters and a romp in the ocean for my hero and heroine. For my sweet romance novels, I use a small country town because there’s something endearing about a country girl and something downright sexy about a cowboy. If I moved the stories to other settings, they’d lose their fire and that is boo because I like fire….I think I’ve written my share of those too!
For those of you as captivated by settings as I am, would you care to share? What’s your favorite story setting? Favorite novel with a great setting? Someplace you write about or love to read about? I’d love to hear!