Monday, March 28, 2011

On Settings

Akin to recent posts On Character Names and On Writing Clarity, today I'm taking on settings!

When you start a novel, you have to make a couple broad decisions about setting.

First: Should your work take place in an everytown? Something most readers can relate to. Or a specific setting? Somewhere to draw readers into.

Second: Do you want a real setting? NYC, Boston, etc. Or a fake or fictionalized setting?

I don’t think any choice is better than the other, it’s all about the execution and what’s right for that particular work.

For Clarity, I knew I wanted the setting to be an important part of the book, almost like another character. Due to the nature of my main character’s family business, I thought a tourist town would work well. I chose Cape Cod simply because I know it well and love it. My father is from Hyannis and has told me stories about the pros and cons of being a teenager in a tourist town. I grew up about 40 minutes from the bridge so we spent tons of weekends down there, especially in the summer. And I do the same with my own family today.

But now that my heart was set on Cape Cod, I had another decision to make. Real town or fake? If I went real, I probably would have gone with South Yarmouth or Hyannis. But I decided to create a fictional town. (Locals may be able to identify some of real places that inspired the settings, though!)

My main reason was that there were particular places I wanted to write into the book that did not exist in real life. And I know it takes some readers out of the story if they run up against a place in a real town that does not exist in reality. (For instance, my father went cuckoo bananas a few years ago because a book put an MBTA station in a town where there is no station. Yes, it was fiction. And Dad loved the book. But he couldn’t get over this fictional MBTA station.)

So I created the town of Eastport, MA. I was free to use some real spots on the Cape (from any town) and invent new places. For example, the 7-Eleven in chapter two is the 7-Eleven in West Yarmouth.


But the boardwalk is fictional (though inspired by the Weirs Beach Boardwalk in Laconia, New Hampshire).

And that’s how Eastport came to be!

8 comments:

  1. Ooh, fun post about the behind-the-scenes decisions that went into Clarity. So far for my books I choose fictionalized towns too, though like Eastport they're usually based around real-life locales.

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  2. Love the setting and it is very col to get the inside scoop of how you came up with the town and why you did. Cannot wait for a second book either!

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  3. I’m never going to that 7-Eleven if my car gets busted up the behind like that :p

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  4. Thanks, Jan!
    Hey, Braiden, I've gotta protect the innocent, ya know! :)

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  5. Aww my writing takes place in a fictional yet not town too! My hometown, Auburn is magically transformed into Stoneville ;)

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  6. Thanks for sharing this. I'm debating whether I can add some fictional places to my real life setting. You've given me more to think about.

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  7. Thanks, Laura!

    @Natalie - I think you can, but there are people who find themselves pulled out of a story if it's a town/city they're familiar with. (Like my dad. lol.)

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