Location. Location. Location.

LocationThere’s an old saying in the real estate business: location is everything. I think it may also hold true for novels. To me, where I set my story can be as important as the story itself.

The story’s location offers it a platform on which to build. If your tale takes place at sea, the sun, wind and water probably influence the action and play an important role. If you’re writing about a crime that occurs in a high rise on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it would most likely have a very different feel than if you were describing a crime in an abandoned West Side warehouse filled with rats and vermin.

I like to make my locations an integral part of the voice. Blending the setting into the narrative helps me build in details in a subliminal way. For me, it’s more about the atmosphere that these details create than the details themselves. Placing a character in a certain location that feels real and familiar can raise a reader’s expectations for that character to behave in a particular manner, which I can exploit, or use to play against type to create something unexpected.

Recently, I’ve been working on a book that takes place in various neighborhoods of New York City, where I’ve lived and worked my whole life. I’ve also just finished a book that ends in Monte Carlo, where I’ve never visited and internet research had to suffice. In both cases, my goal was to make the sights, sounds and mood of these cities combine seamlessly to create an environment that draws the reader in and lets them connect
in a “Yeah, I know that place.” kind of way. Or at least I hope so.

How about you? Where are you setting your next story or book? Is it somewhere familiar to you, or somewhere new?

Visit me at www.cathistoler.com. Look for an excerpt of my new novel,
KEEPING SECRETS  and check in on my latest news and events.

8 thoughts on “Location. Location. Location.

  1. Cathi, location is primary in my last novel because of the colonial history of the place. Since I like to put my stories into context, I research and find the history, so having a rich historical sight added to the story, In my next book, history plays a great role because the city, in which it takes place, is in an economical slump and crime is on the rise. My characters and plot are shaped by the times and the place, by the customs of the town or state in which they live, and the history of the place, along with social and political demands.

    Thanks for a great post!

  2. The importance of location can’t be stressed enough. My cowriter and I have had fun creating a magical town in the mountains of North Georgia. Since we’re both very familiar with the area, we had no trouble creating its roads and byways.

  3. I am ALL ABOUT the settings as a reader (and try, therefore, to do well enough with it as a writer). It’s crucial to the mood for me, and gets me ready for the kind of experience I’m going to have.

  4. Let’s see, my next book is set partially in the Caribbean, in St. Martin, which I’ve visited many times over the years, and in NY, where I live. I think setting is vital. It’s really best when you read a story and think “that couldn’t be set anywhere else.”

  5. I agree with everything that’s been said. Much of my writing, including my novel, is set in the Catskills where we lived for years after leaving New York City. I use that setting in part because it’s a way of going back to a place I love, but also because the mountains and murder seem to be a good fit.

    When I graduated college, Eudora Welty was the guest speaker at a writing department program and she addressed that very subject, urging us not to forget the importance of setting–something she used so effectively in her writing.

  6. After voice, skilfully written setting is often what draws me into a story. Skilfully written fantasy setting is a miracle…when a writer makes me believe the world they’ve invented, makes me see it, I’m really hooked.

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