Tips to Make Your Setting Real
I love the “cold” mysteries. Those set in the cold regions–Sweden, Iceland, Norway. Why do I love those books? I love the settings. The characters are all excellent as well, but the settings keep me coming back time and again.
In Henning Mankell’s series the setting, a small town in Sweden, plays as much a role as any character or plot point. The weather punctuates the setting–cold, dreary, wet.
My Jenna Scali mystery series is set in a university town in the South. Some of my readers recognize the town and love reading about places they know.
Setting is as much a work of art as the rest of your book. It takes research and due diligence. If you create a village in England and have never been there and get it all wrong, you readers will notice. When you misrepresent the weather conditions for a place, readers notice.
Here are some tips for making your setting as real as your characters:
Tip #1: Do your homework
Even though I live in the town where my mystery series is set, I still research particular streets. I don’t want one of my readers to come to me later and tell me I used an incorrect street name, and they would. Writers can make up places and in fantasy writing that’s often the case. But they must do it within reason. Good fantasy writers create a world even though fictionalized rings true.
Tip #2: Don’t forget your setting
As writers we often get so hung up in our plots that we forget that action happens in a place. The reader needs to know about that place to feel the action. New writers often present a lot of events, but they forget about describing the locale. That’s the beauty of the cold mysteries. The authors do an amazing job of putting the reader in the place. The cold wet, dampness seeps from the pages.
Tip #3: Do weave setting into your stories rather than doing information dumps
By weaving, I mean make it so natural that the reader doesn’t realize you’ve done it. The opposite approach is to describe the setting in many paragraphs and then move into the action. Remember the action happens within the setting. When you spend lots of time writing paragraph after paragraph describing the setting, most readers either go to sleep or forget the description when the action starts. A better approach is to piece setting in and make it part of the story.
Tip #4: The weather is part of the setting.
Weather includes more than just announcing that it’s a clear crisp day. Weather means sudden downpours during a summer storm or chills running up a character’s arms as the wind picks up or the smell of old socks when a breeze blows in a certain direction. The weather component helps move the story along (or slows it down–depending on the author’s goals).
Tip #5: Who are the “extra’s” in your story–the people who live in that setting?
One of the things I loved about Jojo Moyes book, Me Before You, was the people in the small English town. Not simply the main characters, but the other people who lived there. She created people who inhabit that village. The same is true of Ann Cleeves’s books. Her settings are amazing and the people who inhabit those settings equally delightful.
Tip #6: Don’t worry too much about setting until you get your story written
Okay, this might sound contrary to the other 5 tips. But, its not. Step one is getting the words on paper. We must know what happens and the only way to do that is to complete the story. Once you’ve written “The End,” go back and fill in the blanks. Imagine the characters and where they are. Allow your mind to take you to that place and then describe what you see, hear, smell.
These are my tips for creating believable settings. What tips do you have? Share your thoughts or share one of your favorite settings in a book you’ve read.
About the Book
When Jenna decides to go to this wedding, she expects to dredge up old secrets and old hurts and she expects to see people from her past, but she doesn’t expect to stumble on a dead body.
Jenna’s friend is arrested. The wedding is cancelled. And Jenna’s tendency to stick her nose where it shouldn’t be leads her into the path of the killer.
Set in the serene mountains of North Carolina Murder on Moonshine Hill is filled with suspense, humor, and a quirky cast of supporting characters.
Pick up Book 1
On this anything but typical Monday morning Jenna Scali, who works part-time for a shrink, opens an email that depicts the brutal death of a young girl. On that same day the police uncover a dead coed two blocks from Jenna’s house. The e-murderer’s description creepily echos the death described in the newspapers.
When Jenna receives other emails, she takes what she knows to the police and thus begins her journey in the path of the e-murderer. Her curious nature impels her from e-messages to dead coeds to a ring of prostitutes. With the help of her quirky friends, Jenna learns that she’s more than a conduit for the killer. She’s his target. New secrets unfold, and finally her love life takes a tumble when the true killer emerges.
THE E-MURDERER is a race to find a psychotic killer before he kills again.
This new mystery series with a young female sleuth promises to keep you glued to your seat until the last page.
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Watch the Book Trailer for e-Murder
Joan is an award-winning writer who has published 6 books and numerous stories. Readers compare her to the great Southern writer, Fanny Flagg. “She writes characters and a story that will stay with you.”
Her debut mystery/suspense novel, The Clock Strikes Midnight, won the silver medal for fiction/suspense in the Global eBook Awards for 2015 and is a finalist for the Royal Palm Literary Award. The e-Murderer won first place in the Malice Domestic Grants competition for new writers.
Joan has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. She reads all kinds of books, including women’s fiction, mysteries, biography, and nonfiction. Mystery/suspense with a psychological twist is exactly the kind of book Joan loves to read.
“I write about characters who remind me of myself at times and my sister at times, but never fully so. My stories are told from a woman’s point of view with a destiny. Characters drive my writing and my reading.”
Having grown up in the South with a mother from Westchester County New York, Joan has a unique take on blending the Southern traditions with the eye of a Northerner. She spent most of her childhood in North Carolina and now resides in Athens, Georgia.
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