Thursday, January 8, 2009

Let Me Set Here Awhile

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What an awesome topic!! I don't know about you guys but I'm loving this how we write settings week. Truthfully, I never really thought about it before. I just did it. The setting was just wherever the story and the characters wanted to go. I never even thought about certain places being cliche like Deena mentioned yesterday with the locker convos (those were some of my deepest convos btw. It was there that all the HUGE MAJOR CATASTROPHIC things that just happened in the previous class were whispered franctically before the next bell).

But I'm so glad that we decided to do this topic because it gave me the chance to really evaluate what I'm doing and I've discovered that I almost always use places that I've been to. If I'm writing a scene that takes place in a school I tend to use my old high school or junior high or even my son's school. If I'm writing about a park it's one of the parks I've spent a lot of time at-- like one in the town I grew up in. And if I need A LOT of detail then sometimes I just put myself in that setting. Literally. Like with THE ESPRESSOLOGIST, I based the setting of my fictional cafe (Wired Joe's) on two specific Starbucks. One, this Starbucks in Chicago that was on the ground floor of the university I was teaching at. Here I watched how people were, how fast orders came up, how they were served etc. And two, the Starbucks in my town. Here I got the nitty gritty-- like there would be times I was hanging over the counter to study the complexities of the giant espresso machine. I actually wrote the entire book from the same table at my Starbucks. It was great--this was probably the book where I had the easiest time writing setting.

But, unfortuntately, we can't always just plop down and write in the middle of our desired setting so we need to try other ways to get those extra details. Like with my middle grade NIGHT AT CLAIRE'S. The whole book takes place at a Claire's Accessories in the mall. This called for a family field trip (Well, I guess I could have gone alone but the kids were a good cover). We went to the Claire's at my local mall and I spent a lot of time studying how everything was set up. And taking pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. And then I looked through those pictures over and over and over again as I wrote the book. They were invaluable.

So that's pretty much what I do with setting. I'll leave off with a question-- is there anything unusual (or quirky) you notice about your settings? For example, I just realized as I'm writing this that my Brooke from BOY SWAP, Ari from REVENGE QUEEN, and Gabby from TEN DAYS all have similar bedroom configurations. I don't know why I did that. I gave them different bed spread colors, decor etc. but the basic layout of the rooms/furniture is the same. Weird.

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut


Emily Marshall said...

Tina, that's interesting all your characters have similar bedroom configurations. I've spent very little in my characters b-rooms, but the way I pictured them, they were slightly different. I'm trying to think of weird things for settings. For two of my books, I've had a theme park that's part of it (the first time it just happened to pop in my head to use because it was an easy way to show a small down girl and was trying to brainstorm cheesy places in Indiana and one specific park worked that I modeled it after. The second time, since I hadn't sold that book and wanted to reuse part of those great descriptions I took forever to come up with, I set a whole other book there--but ended up completely changing the park so it wasn't usable. So I guess that defeated the purpose. But the theme park in the new book is really important for the entire book, so I guess it worked out. Since I probably wouldn't have thought to use it if I hadn't in another book).

Kate Fall said...

I absolutely love the idea of a book set at Claire's. That's just brilliant.

When I was in high school, in front of my locker was where 90% of the drama took place, too. In my tween WIP, I think I have every school scene somewhere different (classroom, soccer field, guidance counselor's office, and yes, in front of the lockers) but I'm not sure it adds anything. They're still just all Generic School. Hmm, maybe with just a couple of school locations, I wouldn't have to describe as much, but would that be more or less boring?

Emily Marshall said...


I think how the characters interact with the setting or what's going on in the scene as it relates to the setting is what turns it from boring to exciting. One of the books I'm reading now (adult) has pretty basic settings, but there's a special-themed party here, a sporting event there, etc, and that's what makes it become something more 3 dimensional in my opinion. So if you are in front of school lockers, but have something weird happen, it could still be an exciting setting, in my opinion.

DeenaML said...

Yeah, like if they're in front of the lockers, then maybe the ceiling is crumbling over their heads. Or someone comes streaking through the hall. Or it's in passing to another location. I have them in my books, too, but then try to make there be a point to that location, or else I feel like it's yawnsville. :) Like in a book I read recently, they met in the janitor's closet. Or in the back of the theater.