Monday, May 17, 2010

How to choose...

In preparation for my new story, Poison Ivy, I've been doing a lot of thinking and researching about settings. Choosing the right setting--East Coast, West Coast, cities big and small, or even the Moon--is crucial to the mood and tone of your story. The perfect setting can add depth or even become a supporting character.

For instance, would Twilight have been the same if Edward was stuck inside all day, every day because he lived in LA, where the sun shines almost everyday? Probably not. It probably would have been the most boring book ever. But, then again, that might have led to more kissing scenes... hmmm. Oh well, I guess we will never know because Stephenie Meyer chose her setting wisely, picking one of the rainiest cities in the US.

For Twilight, choosing Forks, Washington was a logical choice, but what if your story doesn't have any sparkling vampires in it? How do you choose a setting?

I have to admit that I have a tendency of choosing a setting based on places I want to go. So, when I was searching for a setting for Poison Ivy, I decided on Sonoma, California . That city is absolutely beautiful, and would be a perfect setting. Not to mention, I would love to go there and tour wine country (sounds like fun, right?). But, after delving a little deeper into my story, I've come to realize that Sonoma, although breathtaking, doesn't quite set the right mood or tone for my story. Which pretty much sucks. [Insert whining here.] So I'm back on the search for the perfect setting. Hopefully I'll find it one day.

I'm curious to know, how do you all pick the perfect setting for your stories?

Isn't Sonoma, California beautiful. I'm craving a glass of wine right now!!

I hope you all have a great Monday (as if that's even possible)!!!


  1. I'm anxious to read the answers here. My story was originally going to be set in / near Philadelphia, now two of the main characters moved from Philly but they're living in a burb south of Chicago.

    The quiet convenience of a fictional town is calling, though. I can make up whatever landmarks, streets, etc I want without having to worry about someone coming back and saying I'm wrong. I can mold the city into just what I need it to be size, location, problems, advantages.

  2. Most of the time, I just go with my gut and that usually means making up a town so I can make it what I want without having to bother doing all the researching and worrying about making sure it's correct.

    Whenever I hear Sonoma, I think of the Nascar race they have down there. XD

  3. I think that's a wonderful idea and I'm sure that sometimes it works out!!

    Most of my stories start in Iowa, where I grew up, there is something about the place that is so empty and open that leaves the possibilities endless. Things can happen in the middle of nowhere and no one would know the difference. Since I write fantasy YA it really helps and I have a murder story also lined up which also works well in Iowa.

    In a way I'd say when a new idea comes to mind the location normally comes with it. My characters is where I struggle, they never talk to me at the beginning I have to earn their trust first!

    Excellent post!

  4. Oh, great post!

    I don't normally choose a setting. They just kind of come with the story. I know that sounds weird, but let me try to explain. Like, in my short romance the heroine was a rich, well-to-do, educated, daughter of socialite and I wanted her to have an accent. So, she was from England. The hero was a famous fashion designer, so...yeah - he came from New York.

    Maybe next time I'll pick the setting before I pick the people and see how that changes my muse. Interesting!


  5. The setting of my books is now in a fictional town based on Bemidji Minnesota. Okay, let's face it, I just love looking at the pictures of Bemidji Lake. :D

    I'm with Miss V about the beauty of making up my own town. I still do the research, but that's because there are aspects that I wanted to keep true to the area, such as demographics. Northern Minnesota doesn't have the same demographics as Chicago, so it wouldn't make sense if a large percentage of my town's population were Mexican. Also, I can make sure the natural aspects of the town and surrounding forest and lake are true to the region.

  6. Oh, man...I was pulling for Sonoma, it looks so pretty!

    I know what you mean though - it all has to fit. I normally imagine places I've already been and that have meant something to me. I try to weave those details into my story setting without giving too much detail about the actual city. Kind of a made up version of what I like about places, I guess.

    The problem with that approach? I have limited places I've been and am almost out of locations. So, like you, I see research in my future.

    Good luck with it all! I can't wait to see what you pick!

  7. Right now....just starting out...I write what I know. That means small town settings or places that I've been to. Much easier that way.

    Happy Monday to you too!

  8. My current story takes place in the town I live in. But in the second book (yes I have a second book in mind--I know I have issues). I have that taking place in Munich another place I love. Also, I have a made up place in my current WiP. The other stories I have written vary from places I've been to something entirely made up. A whole made up world. So I'm all over the place.
    Sonoma looks nice though.

  9. My current fiction story takes place in a town that is a compilation of a few different places I've been to. I've taken the traits and characteristics that intrigue me from them, and combined them into one town.

  10. Yes, Sonoma is beautiful! Thanks for including that fabulous picture. I used to go to California a lot when my parents lived in Arizona, but now they're here in Missouri with me, which is great, but I do miss California!

    I have to admit, I'm very lazy and usually set my stories either in St. Louis or Michigan, which are the only two places I've ever lived (except for a year in Chicago - I might set a story there one day). I am thinking about setting a future book in Greece, because that's at the top of my travel wish list at the moment.

  11. My MS is set in two places I know well and have lived in. I see houses in my mind, streets, restaurants. My familiarity helps get me through the project.

    My second book will be set in France. I'm going there this summer and will research...and seek out subplots along the way!

    Best of luck with your setting quest!

  12. To me, geography is an additional character in the piece, and the setting is of vital importance.

    also, emotional geography is as important as physical geography, and it's something you don't get in a guidebook.

    so is getting the geography right. It irks me when someone sets a story in NY, has obviously NEVER been there, and has someone turn a corner in Harlem and wind up in Greenwich Village (without paranormal help). If i can't trust a writer on something as simple as getting the geography right, I can't trust any aspect of the story telling. I put down the book and never read/buy anything by that person again.

    And, when I'm paid to review - it's something that comes up the review. Just sets my teeth on edge.

  13. With my historical, it was very scientific. I knew I wanted it in the forest, so I had to find out what part of America were unsettled in the woodlands. Then I had to pick a time, and then something close to the ended up being in what is now modern day Minnesota. So not easy to pick!

  14. Because I grew up in Kansas, I tend to place my characters there. I think I gotta move them out of the midwest though. Maybe to OZ?

  15. Yeah, you know I think you just have to go with your gut or intuition on these things. Your gut was telling you to pick a really earthy, beautiful place like Sonoma. Great choice by the way. I think that will be very interesting!

  16. My default is always to pick settings I'm familiar with, and I'm lucky in that I've traveled quite a bit and lived in several places.

    If one of those options doesn't work, though, I try to pick a setting that makes sense and that I can easily learn more about (either through Google or a friend).

    Of course, in fantasy it's the author's responsibility to CREATE a good setting. I've only tackled that once, but I can tell you it's just as hard as picking a good place that already exists!

  17. Ahahahaha, oh my. You had me thinking about kissing scenes for most of that post because you mentioned Twilight and the possibility of more because of a different location. Don't encourage me :P


    Right, I guess it comes down to gut feeling and experience. I'm always tempted to go with the beautiful places like you but then I have to slap my wrists and really think about the mood and feel of the story.

    Also, if you set it somewhere you don't know so well it's the PERFECT excuse to go there every now and then for research purposes :P

  18. I think setting is crucial and so far it has always tied into my stories.

    One of them was primarily about the remaining Apache Indians so I had to have it near the White Mountain Apache reservation in Arizona.

    FOr my current wip I made up a fictional town named Black Water. But since I live in the south, and it is hard to make my characters sound like they do NOT, I set it in Mississippi. Plus it just sounds like the swamp.

    My new idea has to be in West Virgina. Lots of forests, abandoned railroads...yeah definitely West Virginia.

  19. When I get older I want to live in Northern California-WINE COUNTRY, haha. :)
    You'll make the right decision. Just listen to your "gut feeling."

  20. I tend to set my stories in PA, but I create fictional towns, which resemble my hometown a lot though! I've traveled a lot of the U.S., so I do write about other places I've been to, but again, I often create fictional towns. It's easier to play with weather and landmarks that way.

    That picture is gorgeous!!!

  21. Ooh too bad. I love Sonoma and would read a book set there just for the setting! How about Italy? It's like Sonoma only it's old world and it's Italy!!

  22. Everyone - I love reading all of your ideas and how you do things. It truly is fascinating how everyone is working towards the same goal, and doing the same things, yet we all do it so differently. :)

  23. It can be such a dilemma! For me, so far, it's been about using places that I've been able to live in or frequent. I don't think it's necessary, but it helps me to have it feel alive in my head. I also like to use really interesting places--the kind of place that would impact the plot and characterization if you weren't to use them. But I also will fictionalize some aspects of a place, too. It's more flexible that way, but when I set one of my mss in a particular village in England, I tried to stay as true to the location as possible because that setting had so much character as it was--and it held a lot of meaning to me personally.

  24. Sonoma sure is gorgeous! I tend to create a place rather than choose a place. I haven't traveled much and even with the Internet, it's hard to really know a place. Choosing a setting is tough.

  25. I'm with you in that I tend to pick places I've been. I feel like it's then easier for me to write about it. But it's all about feel. The setting has to feel like the story. I can't wait to find out what you pick :)

  26. I lean toward settings that I know well. Bur I am not opposed to traveling to lovely places (like in the picture) to do some research:)

  27. I think setting is crucial and so far it has always tied into my stories.
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