I saw this review in The Seattle Times for the new David Guterson novel. The book is set in Seattle, and it sounds from the description that it’s an important part of the book. It got me to thinking about settings and the inherent importance of where a novel takes place.
So much of the best fiction has a strong sense of place. Think The Help or Gone with the Wind. Could you imagine them set anywhere but the South? And what about Carl Hiassen’s books set in Florida, where he has lived all his life? Or Annie Proulx’s excellent The Shipping News, which is like taking a trip to Newfoundland.
Even on my own list, Amy Plum’s Die for Me takes place in Paris, as advertised on the cover with a gorgeous image of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. And the just-released middle grade fantasy Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact by A.J. Hartley is set in Atlanta. I recall when I sold the book that one of the conversations with his publisher was about how few books are set there, and how that fact was one of the things that set the book apart.
So, for those of you writing fiction, how do you decide where your novel will take place? And is it one of the first things you think about when you start writing? Or do you think of the setting before you even begin?
I think it’s as important as plot or character development to have the right atmosphere in which to tell your story. It’s the finer details of place that really bring a novel to life, and that makes for the best kind of fiction. What are your favorite books that feature a strong sense of place?