Diary of a New Writer 4 – Location, Location, Location!

(Here are parts one, two and three, if you missed them)

*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 imageand 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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).  image
  4. 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

24 thoughts on “Diary of a New Writer 4 – Location, Location, Location!

  1. I love this post and all of your other posts so much! I didn’t realise just how important location is for a writer so thanks for bringing this to my attention! Thanks for writing such a great post and also I checked out your blog and it is safe to say I love it! (:

    Liked by 2 people

  2. All three of my Sam Deland Crime Novel(s) are a mix of real and fictional locations. The internet is very useful but nothing beats actually going to the location and experiencing it in person. Even the fictional locations are based upon places that I have visited though parts are interchanged for the curve of the story. The tricky part was my historical novel set in 1753. The time travel machine was booked up so allowances had to be made.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do the same thing. I have my characters eating at The Mesquito Grille all the time but I also made up a fake pizza place and a fake hotel in Philly based on The Hotel Palomar. Historically speaking, I would want my “technology” to be correct! I saw a review of a book once that skewered the author for having the characters using tools that hadn’t been invented yet!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Again, can’t thank you enough for writing these posts! I am working on 2 novels now. One is based on my short story posted in my blog (Because Love!…need to think of a better name for it though! :P) and the other one is for NaNo…
    The NaNo one location is not a problem but the other one…the story moves around in 3-4 places and that too in places that I have never been to, doing my research but I am scared at the same time!
    Even the historical aspect is very important….I am very nervous about going wrong there!
    Reading your posts helps me remember a lot of things I should….I like the mapping idea to remember what we said when and where!
    This really helps first time writers like me 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Good advice on location. Since most of my writing is fictional, so far I have used fictional locations, some based loosely on places I have been. However, I do like the idea of a real place with some authentic places in the setting. Good luck with your books.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Yay! You are also my new teacher along with Pam! How can I be so blesssed to meet all of you? 🙂 I hope I can try your advise though…all of you are inspiring… and I am definitely greatful. Hugs and love to you Ma’am 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is really such an interesting read and useful advice. Like another commenter noted, I feel visiting places might also help setting them in your works.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Love and light ❤

    Anand 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another great post in the series! #2 is so true in books, and in movies too. It drives me nuts when they have a scene in a city I know well, and mess up the details – usually just to squeeze a famous landmark in. Characters will drive past a famous statue or building on their way to the airport and I’ll be yelling “you’re going the wrong way!!” haha!
    Thanks again for sharing your tips. Are there any books or other resources you used to help you with some of your techniques (like your cards for each character), or did you come up with most of them on your own?


    1. I thought of doing that stuff myself but I’m sure other writers do the same or similar things. For example, you could create a character database if you wanted to do it electronically. I made a spreadsheet for my timeline to keep track of the order of events and who said what when! One of the most highly regarded books on writing is Stephen King’s book: On Writing. I’m reading it now! Because I never do things in the right order!


      1. Ha! Me neither! I’ve seen his book and haven’t checked it out yet. In my opinion, no one writes characters as real believable as he does.
        When I think of writing a novel, I think of just sitting down and telling the story – which to me is too overwhelming. But starting with some charts, maps, index cards – that appeals to my OCD tendencies and feels doable. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m less about planning ahead and more about keeping track as I go! I hate the idea of being inconsistent and getting caught at it! You do whatever works for you, there’s no right way to do it. 😉


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