One of the most important parts to any novel is its setting – when and where does your story take place? Location can become a character in your novel, it can add drama or romance or stillness to a scene, it gives your characters a place to be and can create plot points as well – for example, a cabin in the woods in a storm is instantly an unnerving prospect, or a beach on the rain can be a perfect moment for that first kiss.
Choosing a setting for a story is something that I think about very early on because of how much location can impact your story. Obviously if you’re creating a new world for a fantasy novel you have to do a lot of world building but even for a contemporary novel, your setting can be key to the story and it’s worth thinking in detail about where your novel will take place, and how it could help you tell your story.
My novel The Second Love Of My Life takes place in a fictional small town in Cornwall so obviously the coast places a role in the story. For my new book I wanted to set it somewhere completely different and find a location that would suit the story and help me tell it. The setting of the New Forest came to me really quickly and even though some major plot points have changed as I’m writing the book, the setting hasn’t.
I love the New Forest and recently went for a day trip there, which was a great opportunity to make sure I had been describing it just right in the book and take some pictures for inspiration. I don’t think though that you have to actually visit a place you’re writing about, there are so many photos online you can use for inspiration and Pinterest boards are great for this but sometimes it’s worth making a research trip to get a feel for a place. I know the New Forest pretty well so it’s been easy to tell a story there and the scenery and the ponies there have naturally weaved their way into the main plot strands of the book.
I think it’s really fun coming up with new settings for books and it’s one way of making sure each story you tell is unique from your others and making sure you never become bored by a place. I hope my love of the locations I’ve chosen in my books comes across as they are read because they really are one of the characters in the story.
How do you choose settings for your stories? How important is location to you as a reader?