Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Perfect Place

photo courtesy of Wikimedia
As I write this, I’m about to go on a trip to New York City. I love New York—it’s brash and classy and never does anything in a small way. There are world class theaters and sports teams, any sort of food you can imagine, and buildings so tall you have to strain to see the top of them. There are people of all shapes and sizes, a cacophony of culture and language in a heady mix flavors the streets.   

The main character in my work in progress, Georgette, is a daytime television star.  She’s gorgeous, she’s got style and panache, and she’s more than just a little bit dramatic. In short, she’s a lot like the city where she’s lived and worked for nearly thirty years. New York sets the stage for her story, not just because of Georgette’s work at Rockefeller Center, but because the atmosphere of the big apple creates the perfect pitch for the tone of the book.

My new release, Confessions of the Sausage Queen, is set in the imaginary small town of Kassenberg in western New York State, not too far from Buffalo. It’s the kind of place where they still have a sausage festival every summer. There’s a Carnegie Library with a marble façade and Greek columns and a portico on Main Street. The building sticks out like an overdressed relative on the otherwise quaint street, but it still somehow fits in. There’s a Moose Lodge, a funeral home with a gigantic fountain, and, on Thursdays, there’s meat bingo at St. Stanislav’s church hall.
photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Mandy, the Sausage Queen herself, has lived in Kassenberg nearly her whole life. She wouldn’t have it any other way. And any other setting wouldn't do for the story she has to tell. Kassenberg is three hundred miles and about a thousand light years from New York City.  Yet, it too, strikes a perfect tone.


   The settings I choose are as important as the characters I create. Whether it’s a small town, a big city, or a galaxy far, far away, place influences the characters, sets the tone, and helps to shape the narrative. How do you choose the places in your stories? 

'Til next time


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I select by mood. We've lived and traveled enough now to use settings we've experienced. That plus updating the "map" leads me to the best venue to frame and infuse the story's background.

Anonymous said...

In my high fantasy, I'm free to make up my own place. It's easy and hard at the same time. Easy because I'm not constrained by the real place and its geography, architecture, demographics, etc, but hard because I have to be consistent in my descriptions from story to story. If in one story, the cathedral in front of the palace has marble spires and stained glass, I can't make it domed and wooden on the other. I must remember not only my characters but my places too.

Victoria Roder said...

I guess I select small town living for my characters because that is what I know. Now the the internet it is a little easier to get a visual of places you've never been.

Big Mike said...

Isn't wikimedia great for PD photos.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Ute Carbone said...

I love Wiki, Mike. :)