Saturday, December 1, 2012
How important is setting when crafting a story
Blog Chain Post #4 (a week and a day late!)
How important is setting when crafting a story? How do you choose where your stories take place? How do you research setting? Do you have to have been somewhere in order to write about it? What are some memorable settings from books you've read?
The above photo is a picture of the town of Croton-on-Hudson, New York, the real life inspiration for the fictional town of Riverton from my forthcoming novel BREAKING GLASS.
So to answer the question posed above, for BREAKING GLASS, the setting is pretty much a character in the book. Croton is a quasi-suburban, fairly upscale community about 50 minutes north of New York City. It overlooks the Hudson River and also has miles of forested roads that weave past the reservoirs that give Westchester County its drinking water. Croton has a river, a damn and a gorge. It feels like the country, but its residents are an interesting bumch, largely commuters to the city. It has an intrigue and a mystery all its own, which made it the ideal setting for the spooky goings on of BREAKING GLASS. Geeky Jeremy and his lawyer dad would fit right in in Croton.
One of the reasons, I suppose, setting is so important to me is that I am such a visual person. As I write, I picture the scenario and take a lot of time to paint the image in the reader's mind. But I am usually quite unconcerned with accuracy. I simply use real locations as a starting point and then embellish at will. I tend to stick with places I've been and notice most of my writing friends do the same. Creating a sense of place is more than just looking at photos or watching movies. You need to understand the smell, feel and sounds of the place. For instance, my friend Heidi Ayarbe sets most of her books in Carson City, Nevada. The desert plays a huge part in her books. Though her vivid descriptions help me picture it, I wouldn't know enough about the vegetation and terrain to write convincingly about it.
Memorable settings? It seems I'm always falling back on this, but I still don't think there is a more memorable setting than Hogwarts! And that was before the movie--which captured it exactly as JK described it.
For more insights regarding the part setting plays in one's writing check out Michelle McLean's blog.