Saturday, 25 August 2012

Setting the Location

As an author one of the first decisions we make is the location of where our story will take place. Be it a bustling metropolis, sleepy village or a particular inner-city estate. Even a single building or vessel can be used ie Die Hard or HMS Ulysses. 

Sometimes the place where a novel is set can play such a big part as to assume the mantle of a character. The best example of this I can think of is the Fry and Cooper series by Stephen Booth where the Derbyshire countryside plays a massive part of all the novels. 

Once a location or setting has been decided upon it will influence lots of other factors such as character names (You don’t get many Jock McTavish’s in rural Italy), dialect and the social standing of the characters. 

When authors get it right and there are no silly inconsistencies like a stockbroker living on a sink estate or a petty thief owning a country house then everything about the novel just falls into place. 

Sometimes a limited area like Nakatomi Tower or the ship itself in HMS Ulysses can crowd the action and characters together to ensure that the pace of the story keeps the reader gripped and thus the pages turning. HMS Ulysses in particular with the constant threat of being sunk by u-boat wolf packs or the shadowy presence of the Tirpitz (a feared German battleship) envelops the reader in the claustrophobia of a ship at war in the North Atlantic. On the other side of the coin the sweeping African plains gave Wilbur Smith a perfect setting for his novels and his obvious love for the country shone through every descriptive phrase. 

My own story Suburban Combat was set in a leafy cul-de-sac and I had to make sure that I didn’t use foul language or slang terms when writing the dialogue as it would have been totally wrong coming from characters who lived in such a suburb. 

Any examples of novels or short stories where the setting or location becomes a character would be gratefully received in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Graham - amused by your comment re foul language and leafy suburbs. I knew someone who lived in Windsor and was posh enough to be one of the folks who wrote the Queen's christmas cards for her. Her oft-repeated 'made a complete dogs-bollocks of' in a VERY county accent never failed to sound incongruous.