*Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive how-to for novel writing, just a few things I learned along the way.
What does the realtor always tell you when you’re shopping for a home? Yep. Location, location, location! The same is true when considering where to set your novel. Are you a sci fi or fantasy writer? Then you have some extensive world building to do. Planets, terrain, space stations, artificial environments – the components of a fictional world are complex. This is why I am greatly in awe of writers like Frank Herbert who wrote the Dune series and JRR Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy
World building for a contemporary romantic suspense novel, however, is not such an arduous task. Nevertheless, there are some things to consider when deciding the location for a novel.
- How important is the location to the plot? In other words, could this same story take place anywhere or only in the setting you’ve chosen? For an overly obvious example, Tony Hillerman wrote about the Navajo Tribal Police on the reservation in the American Southwest. He could not have set those novels anywhere else. Duh.
- Are you very familiar with the setting you’ve chosen or not so much? For example, if you live in Dallas, Texas and you set your story in Montreal, Canada, you better be prepared to do your homework. Now, if you lived in Montreal in the past, you should be fine, but if you’ve never even visited, be careful! Nothing can ruin a good story like screwing up the details.
- Let’s say you decide to set the story in a fictional location. Not a bad idea. It gives you a lot of room to get creative. However, when constructing your locale, you need to be consistent. You can’t say that the post office is next door to the police station in chapter 1 and then say it’s across the street from the police station in chapter 6. Make yourself a map, keep a detailed list of the businesses and places of interest in your fictional town or city: places like restaurants, parks, the city hall, shops and public transportation (if there is any).
- What about the time period you’re writing in? Philadelphia in 1776 versus Philadelphia 2015? Again, do your homework. My worst nightmare: having an expert read my book, find the mistakes and blab all about it in an Amazon review! So don’t be lazy, be thorough!
There are more details to consider, of course, but that’s an overview. In my case, I decided to go with that old epitaph, I mean adage, of ‘write what you know’ and set my story close to home.
I don’t live right in Doylestown, but I live about 20 minutes away. D-town is a quaint/hip town with lots of great restaurants and shops. It has train service to Philadelphia which gave me any easy way to write the city into the story, too. I used actual businesses and made a few up. A good rule of thumb is not to write about a real business if you don’t have something nice to say about it. It you need a crappy restaurant or a nasty shopkeeper, create one and don’t piss off your neighbors!
Anyway, I don’t care who you are, you are not going to possess all the knowledge you’ll need to write your book. There will be a minimum of research you will need to do. So what about that research? Where do you go to find stuff out? That’s next!
Images courtesy: wackenhutco.com, ieet.org, buzzfeed.com