Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Specifically Set

I happen to be on another of my road-trips at the moment. My little car is fast approaching 100,000 miles as I tool through the Southwest. As I'm driving through the vast, largely empty expanses of West Texas for the first time since I wrote the Serengeti Shifters series that takes place there, I find myself: 1) relieved that I'd remembered it accurately enough that I am not cringing at every mile over the mistakes I made (though I'm sure I made plenty) and 2) ruminating on setting specificity.

Do you like books that take place in very specific locations or do you prefer the generic Anytown, USA settings?

The benefit of the first is that you get a strong sense of place, but there be landmines in specificity.

I have a hard time reading books that take place in Alaska or Hawaii because I know enough about the uniqueness of those places that any little wobble will throw me out of the story. I had to put down a book by a Beyond Awesome Author because she used a combination of phrases to describe an Alaskan location that made no sense to me because of the slang we use to describe our regions. (Southeast & Interior are two very different regions and to combine them... dude, I have no idea where you are talking about - but if you had said the southeast of the interior, it would have made total sense. It's a tiny little word that no one would care about except someone from my big ole state.)

But how many people would notice or care about those wobbles? To everyone else the specificity of place will provide atmosphere and enrich the setting. So should you only write about settings you know like the back of your hand?

Kristan Higgins writes about the Northeast - largely Maine and Massachusetts. Jennifer Crusie's books tend to take place in Ohio. Keri Arthur's books live in Melbourne. Do we, as authors, need to regionalize ourselves?

What do you prefer to read?

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