Where am I?
This is a question you DON’T want your readers to dwell on as they turn the pages of your novel.
Picking the setting of a novel is obviously a critical step.
You must craft a vivid and realistic setting to act as a canvass for your characters to perform. This setting/sense of place must be credible.
When you read great works of fiction, you know immediately where and what time period you are in. For example, Walter Mosley puts you in early fifties’ Los Angeles in Devil in a Blue Dress, Harper Lee sets you in the early twentieth century south in To Kill A Mockingbird and F. Scott Fitzgerald sets you in the roaring twenties in The Great Gatsby.
You must give your reader a sense of place and this will make it easier for your readers to exist in the “Fictive Dream” of your novel’s world.
A great author once said: “Characters interact with setting/sense of place as if its’ another character. The setting/place of place will change the character. In a different sense of place the characters will be different. The setting/sense of place will change the characters.”
In crafting your novel, ask yourself a couple of questions. What is the relationship of a particular setting to your novel’s main characters? Can you imagine him/her in a different setting?
What happens in novels, when the protagonists appear in a new setting—what does that appearance in a new setting have to do with “what the book is about”?
For example, my point of view character, Andy Michael Pilgrim, lived, interacted and changed in the three novels of the Julius Thompson Trilogy: A Brooklyn in Brooklyn, Philly Style and Philly Profile and Ghost of Atlanta.
In the progression of the trilogy, Andy’s early adult life was shaped by growing up in Brooklyn, New York and in the move to Philadelphia he was shocked in his young adult life watching the influence of drugs and gangs destroy young people’s lives. Finally, in returning to his beginnings in Atlanta, Georgia, as an adult, he was shaped by the negative memories of his past.
The three cities were major characters and forced Andy Michael Pilgrim to react as if he was confronting another living person in each novel.
As you craft your novel, ask yourself, “Where does the action take place?”
In reading your novel, the must reader learn pretty quickly in what place and time the story unfolds—in other words, where in time and space the story “is set.”
The setting is the backbone of your novel, upon which you will build a cast of dynamic characters. Research your setting so you can add very, very specific details to make your setting as realistic as possible. You must be very descriptive in your setting to pull and keep people reading your book.
In choosing the setting for your novel, ask yourself these questions:
1. What year is it?
2. What City and town do your characters live in?
3. What is the weather like?
4. What season is it?
5. What type of architecture is found in your setting?
6. What is the setting of your Novel?
7. How do you paint a picture of the setting in the reader’s head?
I hope these hints help you create realistic settings for your novels or short stories.