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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

@WillNorthAuthor Choosing Your Setting Correctly #AmWriting #WriteTip #Women

I can’t tell you how many fans have written me to say, “I don’t have to visit the places where your books are set because you’ve already taken me there.” Or, they’ll write that they can’t wait to visit those same places because they are so vivid in their minds.
Setting is not just the place where the story happens, it’s not a backdrop. Setting is central to the story itself. It is a major “character” in the story. It lives. Sometimes it even determines the course of the narrative, as if it were a higher being watching over the things that transpire within its boundaries.
In the 1920s, D. H. Lawrence wrote, “…spirit of place is a great reality.”  It is indeed. It is real. Think of any place you’ve ever been: did you have a sudden sense of belonging? Or, was your immediate instinctive response, “I don’t belong here?” This is something we feel in our bones.
To me, the stories that remain vivid in my memory are the ones the author has made visible to me in my mind’s eye. Though I have never been there, I know the setting as well as my own town, my own backyard. I can see and smell and hear what it is like. I am there, in that place. Its “placeness” is as real to me as the characters that inhabit it.
Most of my novels are set in Britain, a place that has always felt like home to me, even though I am an American with relatively little English heritage. Explaining why is a long story for another time. My latest novel, “Seasons’ End,” is the exception. It is set on an island in Washington State’s Puget Sound that I now call home. It is the first place in my native country to which I have ever felt I belonged. That, too, is a long story for another time.
When I am researching a novel, I go to the place where the story is set and I spend at least a week watching, listening, absorbing. I take pictures. I wander around and mumble observations into a little hand-held digital recorder, like some spy. I want to grasp the shape of the land, the underlying geology, the local architecture, the flowers blooming at that particular time of year, the brand of ale on offer at the local pub. I am ever watching. And I am sure I look either suspicious or mad. Or both.
I also have the benefit of a photographic memory for place. The rest of my memory is rubbish, but this part works brilliantly. A decade ago I spent three and a half months walking through much of southern England. To this day, I can give you the details of that walk almost blade of grass by blade of grass. I still use the places I visited during that long walk in my novels. They aren’t places, they’re living characters.
Here’s the essential point about setting: If the “place” in your story is not real and alive to you, it won’t be for your readers. The magical thing about setting is that, when you nail it, your reader will live there.
And if you don’t, your readers won’t “live” in your story, either.

Every summer for generations, three families intertwined by history, marriage, and career have spent “the season” at their beach cottage compounds on an island in Puget Sound. Today, Martha “Pete” Petersen, married to Tyler Strong, is the lynchpin of the “summer people.” In childhood, she was the tomboy every girl wanted to emulate and is now the mother everyone admires.
Colin Ryan, family friend and the island’s veterinarian, met Pete first in London, years earlier, when she visited his roommate, Tyler. He’s loved her, privately, ever since. Born in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, son of a bar owner, he’s always been dazzled by what he sees of the sun-kissed lives of the summer people.
But this summer, currents strong as the tides roil: jealousies grow, tempers flare, passions clash. Then, on the last day of the season, a series of betrayals alters the combined histories of these families forever.
As in previous novels, The Long Walk Home and Water, Stone, Heart, with Seasons’ End, Will North weaves vivid settings and memorable characters into a compelling tale of romance and suspense.
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Genre – Women’s Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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