A Chat About Place

I’m going to try something here. A few days ago, a friend of mine who has decided to try and write a novel popped up in my chat window to ask a couple of questions. Instead of writing at length about the subject, I’m going to just put the transcript here and see what happens. If you have any questions or followup on the subject, feel free to comment:

Brian: how much detail do you put in your environments?

Brian: I sprinkle some of it here and there, but don’t go overboard

me: depends on how important it is to the story

me: the next novel I’ll be converting for Kindle [The Mushroom Shift]

me: is set in Wyoming in the winter

me: and the setting and the weather play an important part of the story

me: it’s oppressive to characters in an already oppressive situation

Brian: how do you pick cities for your stories?

me: well

me: if you’re Stephen King you stick to places where you’ve lived

me: ; )

Brian: I am going to just use this area… I can change it later if I want

me: I tend to pick places that I think are interesting

Brian: there are a million of those types of areas

me: What suits the story? The Company Man and Drawing Down the Moon are both travelogues of sorts, bouncing around different versions of the US. The shifting locales helped shape the stories.

me: Sometimes the story dictates the location – Wyoming for The Mushroom Shift, New York for the Pembroke Hall novels.

me: Then sometimes it doesn’t matter. When I wrote A Death of Honor, I deliberately did NOT mention a specific city, and have had people assume it was New York, LA, etc.

me: There’s another book I’ve gotten a lot done on that is set in a Canton-like milieu, and needs to be that way for a couple of reasons. And the UFO novel has to take place in Gillette, Wyoming because Gillette is the perfect place for it to occur.

Brian: My story will take place in a canton like area.. more rural though…

me: See? Based on what you’ve told me, it needs to set there. It’s dictated by the story.

One thing I will add that I didn’t say in the chat is that sometimes Place can be as much a character as any of the people in your novel. I’m thinking of films like Body Heat, Do The Right Thing, and just about any movie by the Coen brothers, who have taken Place As Character to a whole new level.

Have I missed anything? Grab your atlas and check.


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