Welcome to the mountain, Marilyn, on this last day of our "Mystery We Write" Holiday tour. It's been a lot of fun and it's great to have you here. Please tell us why novel settings are so important.
I judge a lot of writing contests and read many books by new writers they’ve self-published and I often see the same problem—a lack of setting. It’s very disconcerting to read about two or three people having a conversation or doing something in an unmentioned location. I want to know where people are while they’re talking. Are they in a kitchen? If so whose kitchen and what does it look like? What does it smell like? So much can be added to what’s going on by including the setting.
Setting is important. Readers like to learn about new places whether they are real or fictional. If you’re going to use a real place be sure you are accurate when describing places and how to get there. If you aren’t, someone will let you know about your errors.
If you make up a place, be sure to keep track of where you put things, the names of the places, and the geography. If it’s in a certain place in a particular state, be sure to have trees and flowers and geographical details that are true to that area.
What’s in the location and setting can add another dimension to your story. Think about the obstacles your character will face because to what’s around him or her.
Don’t forget weather. Weather can add to the tension and the atmosphere of the story. Decide on the time of year for your tale and what weather goes along with it in the area you’ve placed your characters.
Smells can add a lot too. Take a deep breath every time you enter someone’s home. What does it smell like? What about when you’re in the city? Or the country? You are always surrounded by smells, use them in your writing.
And when is your story taking place? Is it a period piece? If so, be sure to be accurate about the technology that is or isn’t available, what is going on politically and historically, what kind of clothes people wear and foods they eat.
If it’s present day, let the reader know right away. Have your characters use the technology that everyone uses today—unless of course, one of them absolutely hates cell phones, or won’t touch a computer as one of his character traits.
My Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is set in the Southern Sierra of California. The town of
Creek has a definite resemblance to the town I live in though I’ve moved it a 1000 feet higher in the mountains—giving the area better trees and the possibility of more snow in winter. Another reason I wanted to change the name of the town was because businesses change too often in my town. By the time a book came out where I named a particular restaurant it might be closed. Bear
Nearby is the Bear Creek Indian Reservation which is quite similar to the Tule River Indian Reservation that is close to where I live. In Bears Are Us,
doesn’t have a reason to visit the reservation though she does in several of the other books in the series. I do use some of the Tule River Indian’s legends in my books. Tempe
Obviously, there are bears in Bears Are Us. We have an occasionally bear visit in the lower elevations—but having Bear Creek be higher makes if more plausible that bears would become a nuisance and in some cases a threat.
Deputy Tempe Crabtree has her hands full when bears turn up in and around Bear Creek, a young teen commits suicide and his parents’ actions are suspicious, a prominent woman files a complaint against
and her preacher husband Hutch, a love affair from long ago comes to light, and a woman suffering from dementia disappears. Tempe