Musings, Photography, Writing

A novel setting

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.

New Forest ponies roam freely around the parkland and villages
New Forest ponies roam freely around the parkland and villages – spotted this one with her foal by the side of the road

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.

This one looked very wise to me ... Gandalf the Grey?
This one looked very wise to me … Gandalf the Grey?

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.

Made a new friend whilst I was there!
Made a new friend whilst I was there!

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.

These two were gossipying in Burley High Street
These two were gossipying in Burley High Street

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?



6 thoughts on “A novel setting”

  1. Funnily enough, my books tend to sited, in my mind anyway, somewhere in Devon or Cornwall because a lot of my family are there and I spent all my boyhood holidays in Brixham in Devon. Oh those delicious ice-creams eaten while walking round the harbour wall 🙂

  2. Oh I love horses, beautiful pictures. And I agree setting can really set the mood for a story, just like in a movie. Of course, movies also have music and visuals to help. I often tend to write more fantasy so world building is a big part for me and I use a lot of natural areas as bases for settings like forest, woodlands, lakes, and beaches. From there I let my mind go wherever it wants. When I’m reading, if it’s a contemporary type of fiction I don’t care for heavy setting details, but when it’s a fantasy piece I feel like it’s a requirement to be pretty descriptive on settings.

    1. Thank you! Yes our job is tricker than a movie where you can just have a couple of location shots and the prefect soundtrack, we have to work harder to set a scene I think. Definitely fantasy requires a lot of world building detail, tricky to get the balance right with plot!

  3. Everything I write is set in the same town (unless the characters go on a trip or something, in which case the story might only begin and end in the town but go somewhere else in the middle).

    So, generally, everything is shabby, and most of the people would be classified as “eccentric.” Which is very much in my comfort zone. And regular readers have reacted very positively to the way that a very minor character in one story might be familiar from another story where he or she was more prominent.

    I don’t choose books to read based on where they’re set. That really tells you so little about what type of story it is. Some mysteries set in small towns are in the “cozy” genre, but some are not cozy at all.

    I do think that if you’re going to set a book in a real place, it does help to have been there, but perhaps I’m being old-fashioned. 🙂

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