Monday, May 25, 2009

Tidbit from Mayhem: Analyzing location/setting...

I've returned from a GREAT little conference: Mayhem in the Midlands (Omaha, Nebraska). Managed to shed bookmarks, postcards, chocolate, and (not by choice!) a duffel bag that contained ALL the giveaways and workshop materials of my traveling companion, Margaret Grace, and all my lovingly hand-picked signing pens. And a pair of shoes. And sundry books, toiletries, etc. My favorite pull-over sweater for traveling. These items are most likely still riding around in the trunk of an Omaha Yellow Taxi cab (number unknown), more's the pity.

BUT, I will quit sniffling about the stuff and focus instead on the conference itself, which was as friendly, interesting, and well-run as ever. And, as promised, I'm going to spend this week blogging about some of the tidbits I picked up during the sessions and while gadding about. One is never too old to learn! :-)

Tidbit for today, from author William Kent Krueger during the Location! Location! Location! panel:

People talk about location/setting as being a "character." If you have a novel in which setting takes a very lead role, then analyze its "character" elements:
  • What is the face of your location?
  • The voice?
  • The culture?
  • How about your location's "background" (i.e., history)?
  • Strengths and weaknesses?
I've not thought about setting this way before, and find the possibilities intriguing. Can you think of other character traits or aspects you could examine in order to bring your setting to life?


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Interesting topic, Ann. I've never thought of setting as a character before. In cozy mysteries, the setting is usually smaller or closed off in some way (like the old manor house murders in remote locations for Agatha Christie mysteries.) This allows for fewer suspects and more tension between the characters.

Dialect is also important for my mysteries since I use a Southern setting.

Thanks for the post,

Mystery Writing is Murder

KK Brees said...

Interesting way to think about location. Give it life. Give it a persona. Sorry about the luggage. Here's where your mystery skills will serve you well. What's the name of the cab company? What Would
Travis McGee Do???

N A Sharpe said...

Sorry about your bag that went AWOL but the conference sounded great!

I suppose the climate (weather) might be an influence on the setting (it was a dark and stormy night, lol) as well as the population (in a small town, like Elizabeth suggested, fewer suspects whereas a larger metropolis gives the bad guy more chances to blend in with the crowd, more places to hide)

Interesting perspective.

Nancy, from Just a Thought…

Enid Wilson said...

Poor Ann, these things happen. I lost my plane ticket once, luckily the insurance covered for it. I confess I don't use a lot of locations for my characters. I tend to use dialogues.

In Quest of Theta Magic

Anonymous said...

Good things to think about. You might add religious background, although that might be covered in the broader scope of culture.

The Old Silly from Free Spirit Blog

Anonymous said...

Ann, I use Google Earth to zoom in on areas and specific locations when describing the setting or location.

Also, Google images are great, such as describing a Starbucks in Boston even though I live in southern California.

Weather is also a great tool to use in describing the setting/location. Temperature such as a balmy 75 degrees, snow storms, or just a lazy hazy crazy days of summer work wonders to get the reader in the mood.

Stephen Tremp
Author – Breakthrough: The Adventures of Chase Manhattan