24 January 2015

3 Types of Unbeatable Settings

I know I’ve probably harped on this before and I’m sure there are novelists out there who have used these types of settings, but I’ll go a step further and explain to you why they work for me. Remember, I’m the reader here, so I should know, right?

Put an ordinary man in an extraordinary place. 

Think about this for a moment. An ordinary man works in a third world country providing humanitarian aide to the natives. It is his passion and all the children love him, the men respect him, and the women shy away because he exudes virility and a superior masculinity. You, as the novelist, do not have to work that hard to show anything more about this character.

If you had an ordinary man in a setting where everyone else were ordinary, you would have to transform this character into an extraordinary one in order to stand out, or else what’s the point of this character anyway, right? Sounds like too much work to me and it doesn’t feel authentic.

Take me somewhere for the first time.

I’ve read plenty of novels with settings on beaches, cattle ranches, grand estates, and beautiful islands. I’m sorry, did I put you to sleep there? Why must romance involve beautiful sunsets, roses, and champagne? If you put me on a beach, the dominant sound of waves will ruin it for me, even if we’re supposed to be on the shores of some Caribbean island, unless you have other things going on too!

I want to listen to classical Malhum while walking through the streets of Morocco and biting into a sliver of B’stilla. Put the traditional settings out of your mind. Take me somewhere I can experience for the first time, and if you want to get more into the details you can even share the savory and sweet tastes of your pastry by describing it to me! MmMmm.

Pick an event, any event!

A carnival, a national football game, a political campaign, a wedding. Why do these work? Because it’s easy to hear, smell, see, and touch almost everything imaginable and the writer doesn’t have to work as much. Every beach has water and sand, but a carnival has rides, games, funnel cake, and people walking around with stuffed animals larger than their kids.

If you never had a wedding, here’s your big opportunity. You can make it as extravagant as you like and not have to pay a dime. Everyone loves a wedding. I know it’s been done over and over again, but not by you, right?

Do you have favorite settings that draw you in EVERY. SINGLE. TIME?

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