Where am I?
This is a question you DON’Twant your readers to dwell on as they turn the pages of your novel.
Picking the setting of a novelis obviously a critical step.
You mustcraft a vivid and realistic setting to act as a canvass for your characters toperform. This setting/sense of place must be credible.
When youread great works of fiction, you know immediately where and what time periodyou are in. For example, Walter Mosley puts you in early fifties’ Los Angelesin Devil in a Blue Dress, Harper Lee sets you in the early twentiethcentury south in To Kill A Mockingbird and F. Scott Fitzgerald sets you
in the roaring twenties in The Great Gatsby.
You mustgive your reader a sense of place and this will make it easier for your readersto exist in the “Fictive Dream” ofyour novel’s world.
A greatauthor once said: “Characters interactwith setting/sense of place as if its’ another character. The setting/place ofplace will change the character. In a different sense of place the characterswill 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? Canyou imagine him/her in a different setting?
Whathappens 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, AndyMichael Pilgrim, lived, interacted and changed in the three novels of theJulius Thompson Trilogy: A Brooklyn in Brooklyn, Philly Style andPhilly Profile and Ghost of Atlanta.
In theprogression 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.