How important is setting when crafting a story? How do you choose where your stories take place? How do you research setting? Do you have to have been somewhere in order to write about it? What are some memorable settings from books you've read?
I posed this question because, as a reader, setting isn't something I'm particularly concerned about. Hearing a book beautifully captures the essence of a small southern town, or 1890's London, or any other particular time and place does not make me want to read it. If the best part of a book is its unique setting, then count me out. I'm not a fan of historical fiction.
In Kate's post, she mentioned the amazing setting in Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races. I agree that she does a magnificent job of creating this odd little island full of magic and violence. But there are so many other reasons to love that book, I wouldn't think to list its setting when singing its praises.
As many of the posters before me in the chain have pointed out, setting can be extremely important in a story and almost serve as another character. I find this challenging as a writer. I'm not a fan of research so I tend to set my stories in familiar places. For my last book I changed the setting from Orange County, CA (where I grew up) to Houston, TX (where I lived at the time) on a whim.
For my current book, I wanted an urban setting. I wanted my protagonist to use public transportation and be able to become lost in a big city. She's afraid of the dark and sees monsters in shadows. So I decided San Francisco with its blanket of fog was the perfect setting.
Now I've never lived in San Francisco and only visited a handful of times, so I did have to do a fair amount of dreaded research. I spent hours zoomed in on google maps, following Jung, my main character's, bus route, deciding what street she lived in, and examining the building of her therapist's office. I used my small amount of personal experience along with countless maps, satellite images, and pictures found online to create a contemporary San Francisco setting. I hope I succeeded.
Check out Michelle's take on the topic from earlier today and read Cole's tomorrow.