Monday, April 23, 2012

Marilyn Meredith's Sense of Place

F. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith

It's a pleasure to welcome Marilyn Meredith during the Mystery We Write Spring Blog Tour. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves as the program chair for the Public Safety Writers of America’s writing conference. She’s been an instructor at many writing conferences.

Marilyn, tell us about  the importance of  "Sense of Place."

While reading several books by new authors, I’ve discovered a few with an important element missing, the sense of place. Some of my favorite books are those that I feel like I know exactly what the area looks like where the characters are living, working, talking, and experiencing the things that are going on with and around them.

What I try to do when I’m writing a scene is to see it through the eyes of my point-of-view character. (In my Rocky Bluff P.D. series the POV character may change from scene to scene.) I want to be sure that the reader knows where that character is, what the place is like, perhaps the smells, and of course the weather.

In No Bells fog plays a big part in what is going on. Fog is wonderful for setting a mysterious scene. It swirls around, it hides what’s coming, and it can be frustrating. I’ve lived in a beach community much like Rocky Bluff and the fog is relentless at certain times of the year as it rolls in from the ocean and sometime seems to swallow everything around.

Driving at night in the fog is particularly difficult, especially if you are trying to follow someone without being noticed—which is something Officer Gordon Butler must do. The salty scent of the ocean pervades everywhere.

Rocky Bluff is not a real town, but I can see what it looks like in my imagination. Situated on either side of the 101 highway in Southern California, it’s north of Ventura and south of Santa Barbara. A stream bed runs beside a rocky bluff that rises up like a cliff, giving the town its name. In this particular area there is a lot of wild growth including eucalyptus trees which have a most distinctive odor. This is an undeveloped area favored by young people for partying. It is also where the body is discovered in No Bells.

On top of the bluff are expensive homes where the richest people in the town live. They have no beach access, but many have spectacular ocean views. It is also the location for the Rocky Bluff Community Church.

In the older part of town, beach cottages, many in disrepair, are closest to the shore. The downtown areas with businesses, shops and restaurants are located on and near the main drag, Valley Boulevard. The rest of the town rises up the hillside with the freeway passing over. In one of the homes on the hillside, Officer Gordon Butler’s new love, Benay Weiss, lives in an old Victorian that has been divided into a duplex. Orange groves and ranches are on the other side. When the orange blossoms bloom, their sweet smell adds to the many other scents of Rocky Bluff

The police department is not only understaffed but hasn’t been upgraded with any of the new equipment the larger police departments have access to. Even the Chief’s Office is shabby, furnished with items the Chief has brought from his own home. (This whole situation makes it necessary for the RBPD to solve crimes the old fashioned way—investigating and asking lots of questions.

As things happen in the story, I hope that I’ve given enough of a description of the places that the reader can imagine much the same as what I envisioned in my mind as I wrote.

Even if an author is writing about a real place, not everyone has visited so it’s necessary to describe enough that the reader can visualize what the area looks like the characters inhabit. Sometimes, the setting can almost seem like another character. I hope that’s what I’ve done in No Bells.

No Bells is available at the usual places as a trade paperback and an e-book.
F.M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith

No Bells Blurb: Officer Gordon Butler has finally found the love he’s been seeking for a long time, but there’s one big problem, she’s the major suspect in a murder case.

F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of over thirty published novels—and a few that will never see print. Her latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, from Oak Tree Press, is No Bells. Rocky Bluff P.D. is a fictional beach community between Ventura and Santa Barbara and F. M. once lived in a similar beach area.

Visit Marilyn at her blog, and if you would like to get in touch with her by email.

CONTEST: The person who comments on the most of my blogs on this MMW Spring Blog Tour will win a copy of No Bells so be sure to leave your email too, so I can contact you if you win.


  1. Good Morning, Great post! The more I read about No Bells, the higher on my TBR list it goes. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Every time I read one of these posts of mine, I find typos. Grrr! I do thank Jean for hosting me today, it's always a pleasure to visit her mountaintop.

    Thanks, Mary, as I've said before, Rocky Bluff is very real to me even if it fictional.

  3. Marilyn, reading your post on sense of place provided stimuli for all of my senses. I experienced the fog, orange blossoms, cliffs, and expansive ocean views. Thank you for sharing a must-read how-to on setting! (FYI, I shared it on Twitter and Google+!)

  4. You know what you're talking about, Marilyn. When I read your books I can always see the scene in my mind's eye. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Marilyn, I soooooo agree with what you say about a sense of place. And coming through your characters senses. Can't wait to get a signed copy of No Bells at PSWA--I know I'm going to love it. Fog--so mysterious--perfect!


  6. I really enjoyed this blog. Thanks for your time.