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Novel Settings - Do you care?


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Showing 1-13 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 4, 2012 12:00:36 AM PDT
Derek Grant says:
A lot of my stuff is set in Canada (specifically the north) since that's where I live. My question to American readers is this: does it make a difference to you? Do you prefer your stories to be set in the US, or are you just looking for a good read? I would assume it's the latter, but I've heard from time to time that setting stories outside of the US can put your book at a bit of a disadvantage. Any truth to this? Thoughts?

Posted on Nov 4, 2012 8:23:48 AM PST
dianon says:
perhaps i am generalizing but my expectations of locale is different. if i know a story takes place in say new england, i expect a gothic type of ghost story. southwest, perhaps a local legend. canada would also be maybe a local legend, a town curse, a forest creature-well you get the idea. of course i'm stereotyping, but it's what comes to my mind. also with location i like learning about areas and their uniqueness. altho not horror writers, i loved tony hillerman mysteries. learning about the navajos in his stories was wonderful. same with per wahloo series and his swedish detective.
hope this helps.

Posted on Nov 4, 2012 8:26:55 AM PST
Pam Gearhart says:
As long as the author is familiar with the setting, I don't care. It upsets me when someone writes about a small town and knows nothing about small towns. There's more to consider than population.

Posted on Nov 4, 2012 8:59:07 AM PST
Derek Grant says:
So authenticity is key. That is more than fair. It's just that sometimes (like in one book I've written but is yet to be published) I set it in the States simply because your system of law enforcement lent itself better to the story I was trying to tell. You guys have small town sheriff's and the like (which was key to my story), where we do not. Some of our smaller communities have their own police force, but it's rare and in Western Canada (where I live), it's either big city police or the RCMP. So I moved my story south of the border. But not being from the US (and only having visited a few times), I'm now thinking that I might be taking a risk in the authenticity department...

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2012 11:32:06 AM PST
Pam Gearhart says:
Readers will forgive small technical mistakes if they're enjoying other aspects of the story. For example, I know nothing about weapons or military tactics, so I don't notice goofs involving guns or battle strategies.

As for small town sheriffs, research will help you avert errors that might take a reader out of the story. Some sheriffs are elected, some are appointed. If that's a factor in your story, you should know how it works in the town you're writing about.

Posted on Nov 4, 2012 2:23:53 PM PST
R. Stahnke says:
I don't have a preference. The setting doesn't have to be familiar to enjoy the work. I've set my own work in North Carolina because it's what I'm familiar with and can accurately describe. I'm considering a story in San Francisco but worry that I won't be able to convey a realistic setting.

Posted on Nov 4, 2012 2:55:54 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 4, 2012 2:57:29 PM PST
Bruise Bane says:
In more character driven narratives setting seems, for the most part, to be secondary. Setting, however, might be very important in plot driven or atmospheric tales. A couple of years ago (and I'm not sure why this one stands out so clearly) I read a somewhat long-ish short story (but not quite long enough to be a novella) that took place in the Scottish Highlands. The setting in that story was very important: it could have almost been described as a major character in the narrative.

And the landscape in Neil Gaiman's "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains" is what gave the story it's bleak feel.

However, to the main question of the OP: I'm not worried with setting; I don't prefer one locale over others. As I wrote earlier, the setting is often secondary to the characters' stories. And if the setting is important to the story (as with Gaiman's story), and the author can write effectively and authentically, then I'm not bothered.

Posted on Nov 4, 2012 2:58:14 PM PST
Dingfelder says:
I love the contribution of setting to story. Unfortunately, tastes don't always match up. A Hollywood maxim is never to base a movie in a snowy place or during winter. People in the U.S. tend to leave those movies alone, as their fantasies tend toward the tropical rather than snowy (which many are sick of, get sick of, or remember being sick of). Me, I grew up in the tropics so "tropical paradises" are old hat rather than exotic to me, and snow, the thing that so many in the continental U.S. think of as a tedious and spirit-deflating annoyance, is an eerie marvel. I love stories set in snow/winter. But if my main goal were to sell, I might write a story with a different setting.

So by way of answering your question, what I'm getting at is that if you're trying to appeal to the familiar, choose the familiar that people are most familiar with. Stephen King became huge by choosing realistic small town settings, or perhaps the kind of small-town settings of American nostalgia a la Norman Rockwell, nuclear families, ordinary jobs and reliable character types. The "familiarity" that many of us city-dwellers wish were familiar. Of course then he takes a hammer to it, but that's kind of the point. And at the end, his threatened worlds are often restored.

Contrarily, if you want to appeal to a taste for the exotic, choose what is exotic to your target market, not necessarily what is exotic to you personally -- to others that may be old hat!

Alternatively, be satisfied with smaller markets for your work. And be satisfied simply to realize your story in its best form, without further calculation as to its market. All writers would like to focus on that exclusively, but marketing is a part of writing too, and it does seem to be what your question concentrated on. So whether or not you want to write about that three-gendered necromancer in Portugal's elusive Mennonite pottery community or not depends on objectives for your story that fall outside its writing, and nobody knows those or is in a position to judge them but you.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2012 3:06:09 PM PST
Bruise Bane says:
"A Hollywood maxim is never to base a movie in a snowy place or during winter. People in the U.S. tend to leave those movies alone, as their fantasies tend toward the tropical rather than snowy"

This is true. Most people I know tend to prefer sunny beaches, palm trees, etc. I, however, prefer bleak, cold, barren. I'll take a gray sky over a bright blue one any day. The setting in the move Fargo, I think, is one of the major factors for my liking it. Some of my favorite scenes in The Lord of the Rings were shots of the rocky windswept hills. I loved the dark, autumnal cinematography of The Village.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2012 4:09:41 PM PST
Dingfelder says:
Or, for that matter, the settings of "The Thing" or "Who Goes There?" or "At the Mountains of Madness" or "The Secret Sharer" or "Thirty Days of Night" or some of the old Jack London tales like "White Fang" or "The Call of the Wild."

I'm the kind who squints in the sun and feels his vision clear and his face relax in the shade too. My love of cool and night probably plays a big part in steering me toward stories that build up those kind of settings and atmospherics. Perfect for horror and shady goings-on. I wouldn't like Jack the Ripper or Sherlock Holmes in Jamaica as much as I like to imagine them materializing out of a damp London fog.

Posted on Nov 5, 2012 5:28:14 AM PST
Nicely said, Marc and Shadow. : )

Posted on Nov 5, 2012 6:49:36 AM PST
Alina says:
I'm actually one of those people who don't like movies set in snow - I don't know why people who live in Alaska don't just move. However one of my most favourite movies of all time is The Thing and I like Fargo and 30 days of Night is entertaining enough. So it's the story more than the setting that gets me. However none of my favourite scenes in these movies involve snow.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2012 9:53:43 PM PST
Kerry Lynn says:
I don't think setting matters if you describe it well. I have never visited the east coast towns of John Saul and Stephen King novels or the City Streets and dessert of Kilborn and Crouch, but I feel like I am IN THAT PLACE and can see and smell and hear the town.
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Discussion in:  Horror forum
Participants:  9
Total posts:  13
Initial post:  Nov 4, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 7, 2012

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