Here’s the fifth installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:
5: Where the $)*@#$ am I?
Never be generic. Tell your reader in the first few pages where the characters are.
- Are they in New York City?
- Miami, Florida?
- Austin, Texas?
- Big Timber, Montana?
Each of these places are very different and those regional influences will affect how your characters interact with their environment. I recently read a book that seemed to purposefully avoid telling me where the story was set. All I can tell you was that I got the impression it was a city (as opposed to a small town) and that the main character said that, when a child, they used to go to the beach on weekends. Humm… not giving me much to go on. Where they in Oregon or Georgia? Should I be picturing southern accents or New England ones? I can only imagine that the author of this book didn’t want the setting to interfere with the story. Why? Did she not realize that the most amazing books every written are very identifiable with the places they are set?
Imagine Gone with the Wind without Atlanta.
Imagine Twilight without Forks.
Imagine Sherlock Holmes without London
Readers need something to go on. As we read a book, we’re forming pictures in our mind, sort of like assembling the words on the page into a movie that shows in our head. We hear the voices of the characters, we see what they see. But we all need a starting point from which to embark on the journey the book is to take us on.
Instead of ignoring the setting of your story, let it become a part of the story, let your readers walk it’s streets with the characters. If they’re like me, the like to form a mental picture of the places your characters go, so paint a picture of a real place. Now, that doesn’t mean they can’t be set in a fictional town, it’s just that your fictional town should be set in a real life region of the country that your readers can identify with.
Jennifer Geoghan, author of:
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