A powerful setting is almost like a character in its own right.
The setting is a ‘presence’ in the story. The setting can become an ‘influence’ on events.
Without an intimate knowledge and feeling for a place, I do not believe a writer can bring the story alive in the reader’s imagination.
Setting is more than just streets, buildings and landscape. Setting is local history, customs, nature, weather, and legends. Setting is food, accents, music, fashion, and people going about daily business.
Everyone has a place that inspires him or her. Or, creates a sense of belonging, excitement, or a desire to escape.
My settings are as diverse as my interests are. In my Rodeo Romance Series, my settings are the western United States. My heroes hail from a rugged untamed area: Texas, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Since I have traveled through and vacationed at my chosen settings, I use my firsthand experience and reactions to enrich my stories for my readers.
Montana is cold, very cold (I do not like being even a bit cold). One minute it’s storming, the next it’s sunny, and then the sun goes down, and it’s freezing. Since my heroine (Rachel) has lived most of her life in Montana, the cold is not a big deal for her. When I begin my story, I scrawled a note to self: do not harp on the temperature, or have said heroine run around in circles shouting, “It’s a snow storm—the T-rex of all snow storms! We are all going to die!” (However, this may appear in one of my YA novels—be forewarned.)
Montana is Big Sky Country—a nickname Montana has totally earned. In Montana, the elk, deer and antelope populations outnumber the humans. Cowboy boots and hats re formal wear. Montana Pro Rodeo Circuits are some of the best in the country. Most importantly, the whole state is just one big small town.
An excerpt from “Lynx," Rodeo Romance, Book 1.
Rachel melted against the back or her chair, as Lynx’s fingertip brushed a strand of hair from her face. Her body shivered all the way to her toes. Fidgeting with a silver bracelet on her wrist, Rachel didn’t know how to deal with this type of covert seduction. “You’ll have a good time during Cheyenne Frontier Days,” she said addressing her comment to both men.
“Everyone has a good time,” Lynx clarified.
Dan chuckled. “Everyone who’s able, anyway.”
Rachel reached for her glass, glancing at Dan. “I don’t understand.”
Dan pushed his Stetson further back on his head, revealing a bright crop of red hair. “I landed in front of the angry end of a bull last year and broke my arm. Lynx had a hell of a good time, though.”
Excerpts from “Brede”, Rodeo Romance, Book 2.
Brede waited for her to seat herself before sitting down.
For some reason, he’d thought she was kidding when she said she didn’t know how to cook. It appeared, she was telling the truth after all. The green beans had an almost-scorched smell that even he’d never mastered. . .
The saucepan slipped from her fingertips and clattered to the floor.
She’d tried to tell herself that it was only the storm, and the lights would come back on in a matter of minutes. Still, terror that was icy, cold and merciless grabbed her by the throat and crushed what little courage she possessed when the cloudy, moonless night turned the room to inky black.
It was happening all over again!
She was alone.
Alone in the darkness. .
Not all of my stories aren’t set in the great-outdoors, or set thousands of miles away from my backyard. I also use ‘local’ settings for inspiration. My Sassy and Fun Fantasy Series is set here in SoCal (southern California and up the coastline). Meredith is a patron of the arts and a local celeb. She lives in LA and vacations in a cabin in Forest Falls.
“Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow."
El Mexicano was the best (and only) restaurant in town. . . Climbing the steps to the porch entrance, Meredith was glad to see little had changed from their last visit. Cozy and rustic, the outside was on the tacky side of eclectic, but the inside was familiar and welcoming. The host seated them near the wood-burning stove. . .Careful to keep her gaze locked on the contents of her mug, Meredith felt cluttered with a million bittersweet memories of happier times.
Most of my western novels reflect settings I visited during my travels. However, many of my contemporary stories are set with in my own back yard (or within driving distance). A writer may discover the model for a fictional town, a make-believe stellar world, or an unexpected setting for an historical romance in some unexpected places.
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