Over the course of my blog I have spoken a few times about location and setting. I discussed reasons to visit the place where your novel is set, and I spoke about finding inspiration in various different places.
Today, I’d like to discuss those first steps, that first decision when it comes to location. Choosing the perfect setting for your novel is not as simple as picking a place you love, or your home town and assuming that it is going to work for the story you’re trying to tell. So, I’d like to throw out some ideas on ways to choose the right setting for your story.
1. Do you need to invent your novel’s setting?
I put this as the first point because of course, for many writers, they will invent a location and that makes choosing the setting a very different experience. Pros of this is that you can create a space that offers everything you need to tell the story. One of the most powerful things about writing fiction is that anything is possible, and when you own your location you can twist it to make it work.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ve got it easy. Far from it in fact. Creating a world of your own still requires rules to keep it from becoming ridiculous or unbelievable. You are presented with the enormous task of writing purely from imagination, with no real life maps or photographs to prompt and inspire you. Still, it’s apparent to me that the first thing you need to decide is whether you’re writing about a real place or an entirely fictional one.
2. What do your characters need?
Knowing what your characters need is a great way to help you decide the location of your novel. If your character needs to escape, perhaps they go somewhere small and unexpected, or somewhere so busy they’ll be able to hide. If they are seeking to turn their life around then consider a place full of opportunities. You’ll also need to consider your character’s job, their hobbies, their relationships and choose a setting that fits their way of life. It is worth deciding whether the characters have a good relationship with where they live or a bad one. If they love it, then choose somewhere with lovable traits, if they hate it do the opposite. It’ll make for well rounded and relatable characters.
3. What does your story need?
Your plot will fundamentally be the strongest driving force for choosing the appropriate settings and locations. For example, in my current Work In Progress, I needed somewhere with quick police response times, busy streets and loads of people. I could only, logically, set my story in a large city. In previous projects I’ve needed characters to have a lack of resources, a need to fend for themselves, so I chose remote villages in the mountains. A basic outline of your plot is the best way to consider what resources your characters and story need to work and make sense. You can then choose a location that best fits those needs.
4. Choose a place that inspires you
If you’re writing about a real place, then choose somewhere that inspires you. You’ll feel passionate about the setting and therefore your descriptions will flourish. When I decided I needed a large city for my novel, I chose London. Not only because it had everything my story needed, but because whenever I visit I fill my notebook with little quips, about the sites and sounds and smells, about the people and the way of life. And these little notes all help me make my story more authentic, and my characters relationship to the setting more apparent.
Tell me more about your novel’s location. I’d really love to know why you chose the place you chose, how it influences your story and whether or not your setting is fictional, a real place, or based on a real place but with your own twist.
Do comment your thoughts below! It’s always wonderful to learn more about your projects.