Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Somewhere over the rainbow

It's my turn to post the topic for the blog chain. I asked: 

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.
photo source

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.


  1. Your book sounds great! I love the idea of San Francisco as a setting. I have always wanted to visit, mostly because of its Beat Generation history.

  2. That's so funny and so true. In every book I've written, there has been a California component (mostly San Francisco) because I visit so often. Both my kids live in SF. Likewise, I tend to buy books if there is a mention of San Francisco in the blurb. I know the place and want to know if the author does (usually, yes, since a lot of them live/have lived there.) Your book sounds interesting and I will definitely check it out!

  3. Oh YAY! You're blogging again! So am I ... or I will be once I stop procrastinating by reading other people's blogs ...

    Anyway, on setting - I care about it a lot more than I used to. Maybe it has to do with getting older and paying more attention to my own setting. Or maybe it has to do with an increased capacity for appreciating beauty. Or with becoming a more thoughtful reader. Maybe all of those things!!!

    And congratulations on your beautiful baby!!!

    PS Did not make it to College Station at all last semester, but am hoping for better things in the spring.

    1. Thanks Heather! Yeah, please let me know if and when you come up this way. I would love to get together and catch up!