January 18, 2013

Casual Friday: How Important is Setting to Your Story?

Happy Friday all!

Ok, this may sound a little strange to some of you, but for me, sometimes WHERE a story takes place is just as important in inspiring me as the actual characters and storyline.

A big part of the inspiration for my second novel (LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE) was the contrast between Newport, Rhode Island, and my own hometown in Connecticut. The idea for the story came to me in a dream, but when I plotted it out I knew parts of it had to take place on the gorgeous Newport Cliffwalk and famous Thames Street, while other parts took place in the much less glamorous area of - well, the neighborhood where I lived in high school.

The contrast between the two places represented the person my character became at different points in her life.

The Newport, RI Cliffwalk, where "The Taffy Scene" - the
favorite among my CP's - takes place.
The marina on Thames Street. I wrote a scene where Kelsey
and Ryan watched this very sunset.
The boxy split levels and overgrown lawns of my old neighborhood vs. the preserved mansions and manicured beauty of Newport helped me differentiate between the unsure, somewhat sad person Kelsey started off as, and the confident, bolder person she became. It totally worked.

My third novel (SHADOW PARK) was an homage to my (somewhat freaky, yes, I admit) fascination with cemeteries. I can't help it, guys. All the stones and marble and greenery makes them SO DARN BEAUTIFUL despite their morbid connotation. They are so full of history and untold stories and lives lost too soon, I can't not marvel at them.

Or, you know, not write a story that has a good chunk of its action in one.

For real, I can't be the only one who thinks these things are
stunning, right?

That's Tom Welling. In the rain. In a cemetery. I just
convulsed a little at the perfection.
In short, visualizing the *where* of the story is sometimes super important in helping me figure out the other details. If I can see it, I it's easier to make the rest happen.

What about you, peeps? What kinds of settings inspire your creativity, if any?


Dahlia Adler said...

Gorgeous pictures!! And I'm obsessed with cemeteries too, so now I'm even more convinced we're soulmates. You could NOT drag me out of Pere LaChaise the last time I was in Paris. That place is just incredible.

I wish I was able to work my favorite settings into a book, but I'm not usually terribly specific with mine - just some small town somewhere, with the region really being the important part. I wish I wrote books with international settings so I could make use of the places I've been, but fortunately Maggie did that for me beautifully in THE ELITE!

Steph Sessa said...

There's a scene in my MS that takes place in a cemetery. There's just such a gothic beauty to them.

You should watching the Doctor Who episode "Weeping Angels". While it's not quite about cemeteries, they are angel statues from cemeteries and I can't help thinking about them every time I see a cemetery.

Rachel said...

Like Dahlia I really don't have a set setting. I wanted my characters to be in "any" place, although they're definitely wealthy which contrasts which the love interest. I based some of my setting on New Jersey where I grew up...and the girls in my book do love to go to the mall ;-) However I wanted the reader, wherever they live, to feel like it could happen to them... I do love when I read about specific settings like JUST ONE DAY or ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS.

Jaye Robin Brown said...

I like to treat setting as a character so that it's as rich as the people who inhabit it. Cemeteries are amazing. There's actually a fun cemetery scene in the WIP I'm working on now. And thanks for the reminder about that beautiful area of Newport. I was there once, very briefly, and I remember how gorgeous it was.

Ink in the Book said...

I like to envision my setting and then search Google and Flickr for what I have in mind. Then, I use what I find to add details I may not thought about to add a sense of reality to my scenes. Sometimes, I find a picture so creative, so intriguing, so awesome that it moves me write a completely new twist in the plot or extra vivid detail in my scene. I always say art is my number one source of inspiration.

Mary Gray said...

Ha! I love that you love cemeteries. They're unlike anything else in the world.

I have the hardest time visualizing ANYTHING, so I do Google searches, and draw pictures, though those are worse than a third grader's.

Maggie Hall said...

I definitely agree! I think setting's really important, both for mood and, as you said, for identifying change in the character or their circumstances. (And I love cemeteries, too! You did SUCH a good job writing them for SP.)

Dahl--Thanks! Just wait for THE ELITE 2: AVERY GOES TO ISRAEL. :)

Jill Haugh said...

I love a good cemetary. So peaceful. My current MG novel takes place in Glastonbury, England and involves all of these marvelous places I had the chance to visit on holiday. The Tor really inspired me and is featured quite a bit in my book. The mystical ambience of Glastonbury is perfect for this story.
Nice post and good food for thought!
~Just Jill

Creepy Query Girl said...

I used to take my LJ smith books and go read in the cemetary when I was 13 or so. I've alwyas had a fascination with them for the reasons you mentioned.

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