Thoughts on writing, grammar, the moon, and friends--whatever comes up.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Where in the World?
Setting, or milieu (don’t you love that word?), is the environment or physical time and place in which a story takes place. Exotic locales start me dreaming—my imagination goes into overdrive. I spent a few months in Mexico and always wanted to set a story there.
Pat Conroy’s novels have a powerful sense of place. Appalachia is almost another character in Vicki Lane’s books, and Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone could only have happened in that isolated mountain area.
Setting provides a backdrop and color. Streets, buildings, restaurants, or some wild, rugged terrain—it all depends on your story and what you want to happen. Most people write what they know or have a good chance of finding out. I wouldn’t set a book in Alaska because I doubt if I could get enough of a feeling for it from books (even Dana Stabenow’s rich and beautiful novels) and movies or the Internet but I could set one in Atlanta or most towns in the South even though I may not have been there.
These days, if you chose a place you’re not familiar with, you can easily find pictures and information about restaurants, streets, businesses, and places of interest, but if you can find someone who’s spent time there, maybe they’ll help. I’ve found many people willing to share their impressions. They may be able to add some details you wouldn’t otherwise find, such as smells, sounds, whether it’s windy or the air is visibly polluted.
How does it influence you? Do you have a sudden hunger to read something with a particular setting? Or does finding some special place set off bells in your head?