Settling In

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

75. Choosing a setting

For me, this has never been a particularly difficult issue because for the most part my settings have been determined by the type of story I was writing. I spent most of my youth writing fantasy-based stories that, naturally, would occur in otherworldly settings, which isn’t so difficult because you get to make it up as you go along. As long as the setting makes sense for the scene you’re writing, all is well and good.

Strangely enough, the first time I had a little difficulty with setting was the first time I wrote a story that takes place in the real world. My zombie apocalypse novel takes place on modern-day Earth, which you would think would be simple enough to write, but it was surprisingly difficult. For one thing I didn’t want to anchor my characters to a specific area because, to be blunt, I didn’t want to have to deal with the research that would be involved in making sure I had that setting accurate enough. I wouldn’t want to eventually get the novel published and have readers from that particular area start wailing at me that I’d gotten their hometown all wrong. And I didn’t want to use my own home area because, to put it simply, that would be too easy. I live right by the Atlantic Ocean, in an area that is rife with fishing and recreational boating. If my characters didn’t immediately hop on a boat to avoid the undead hoard my readers would spend the rest of the book thinking, “These people are absolute morons.”

So I decided to go a little vague. My main character never outright says where she lives, and the only time a town name ever comes into play it’s a very generic-sounding town that could exist pretty much anywhere in North America. But then I got into another sticky situation. See, I didn’t want my characters to spend the entire novel in this one particular area. I wanted to show how the apocalypse was affecting different areas and different people, so I had to play around a bit. The story starts in a large city, but there are also smaller towns involved, as well as a back-woods kind of area that is very secluded. It was a bit strange to write, since I’m used to having myself firmly planted in a single important setting, but it was also fun and rewarding to get to play around with all these different places.

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