Have You Seen Your Setting?

So far in this crazy writing career I’ve  written about places that are familiar to me, places close to home or ones that make me smile every time I visit. Since I’ve been to the setting myself, it’s easy to weave the location into a story. My first effort is set in Henderson, Nevada a seemingly quiet sprawling city south of the craziness of Las Vegas. I taught classes in Henderson several times and found it to be like most suburban cities – quiet residential streets, shopping strip malls, and commercial development. A perfect setting for THE BIRTHDAY JINX. My second story, NO-BRAINER, is set in P1000332Mount Charleston, a mountain community I’ve spent time in hiking the trails and enjoying the wildlife, just 45 minutes from the bright lights of Las Vegas.

I’m currently outlining a new MG story that will have worldwide locations I’ve never been to. I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I should set the story in a more familiar place, like home here in Colorado. Questions are floating around in my head…

  1. Can your setting be a place you’ve never visited? I’m not creating a new world here with magical realism or science fiction, just a modern day, contemporary story.
  2. Does the scope of the Internet allow us freedom to visit places virtually, and then write about them as if we had lived or visited their themselves? Can you just Google instead of visiting for real?
  3. Does it matter as long as your setting purposely interacts with your plot?

Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts.



About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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4 Responses to Have You Seen Your Setting?

  1. I’ve had your same concerns. But thankfully, we live in the age of the internet. You can derive so much knowledge about foreign places from viewing images of the landscape and reading stats about the place. Suggestion: visit travel agency websites. They are a cornucopia of info. Just browse. And if you’re writing fiction, you can always embellish to make certain aspects of the landscape, culture, etc… your own.

    Best of luck outlining your MG!

  2. Travel agency web sites… That’s a great idea. I hope to paint a picture for the reader so they can experience the setting in a deeper way with the words they are reading. Research is so key – even if you can’t afford the time or money to visit each location in a short period of time. Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. I’ve written about a lot of places I haven’t been. There are so many resources out there, I don’t worry about it. If I’m really concerned about getting it exactly right, I make up a name for a town and make it my own. I always check to make sure there is no town of the same name in the state. If you are looking for places in Europe, watch Rick Steve’s travel shows. PBS runs them quite often and you might be able to rent his videos or get them at the library. I like S.A.’s idea of using travel agency sites. I say go for it. It’s called fiction for a reason!

  4. Thanks for the tips, Rosi! I’ll be pursing that path. I’m familiar with Rick’s videos as they are always thorough and well done. Yes, non-fiction would be a whole different ball game with authenticity.

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