"A setting is one of the most important elements of a good fiction novel. When properly developed, the setting can really bring your novel to life and captivate your readers."
That statement comes from wikiHow and it is true. Your readers want to know where the book is set and get the feel for the place. It is not to say, however, that you should sound like a tour guide when you describe your setting. I know, I read a book not too long ago like that. Of course, I did not finish.
My biggest compliment was when a reader commented on my debut novel to say that she was with me in Denver and the mountains. I had to confess I had never been! The original setting which I had planned, was New York because I've been to New York, but no, Jakes had a mind of his own and went off to Denver. Now I will have to go and visit!
Another reader mentioned that they loved the descriptions of the coffeeshop in Taste for Coffee. I've been to many coffee shops in my life, but I haven't been to one which looked like Joe's. However, I've dreamed often of having my own coffee shop and if I one day have enough money, I might open a coffee shop just like that, but I'll probably add a bookshop and reading nooks. So you see, even if I write contemporary, with loads of facts, I can still use my imagination.
Let me tell you more about the settings for my books and the series they belong to.
PLAYING FOR GLORY SERIES
The whole series is based in Pretoria, South Africa, which is my hometown. Pretoria is also called the Jacaranda City for the abundance of trees blooming in October, covering the streets in a carpet of purple. Pretoria is also the home of the Bulls/Blue Bulls, my team since they were Noord-Transvaal (or Northern Transvaal) and they play their rugby at Loftus Versveld. Those of you who read my books and are familiar with Pretoria might recognise some of the places I describe, although I had to change names and used my creative licence to change the things I wanted to use as inspiration. Some players may go off as Jakes went to Denver, Mark went to Paris and sometimes I take my team overseas or to other South African cities, but Pretoria is the team's base.
TASTE FOR LOVE SERIES
The main setting for this series is Leith in Edinburgh.
Taste for Coffee
Joe's Coffee House is in Leith and that is also where Iain moved the headquarters of Young's Incorporated.
Iain lives in Cramond, and I don't know yet where his siblings are, but most of Taste for Coffee is set in and around Edinburgh, with a couple of visits to Falkirk, for example, and the East Neuk of Fife.
Taste for Wine has various settings but I'm concentrating on Leith and then Mendoza in Argentina.
The other books will also be set in Leith, but Taste for Chocolate may have a scene or two set in Paris, but I'm not sure yet. Taste for Whisky might go to the Highlands and Glasgow.
Taste for Cupcakes started in Edinburgh, but I have an inkling the final setting might be in Mendoza.
BLUE MOUNTAIN SERIES
The Blue Mountain series is set in Stellenbosch, in the heart of South Africa's Winelands. There are two farms mentioned throughout in the series namely Blue Mountains and Twin Peaks.
The main photo and the photo in the middle was the inspiration for the farm Blue Mountains which gave the series its name. Of course, I also mention Cape Town and other places in South Africa, but mostly it is set in Stellenbosch.
The next two books are both standalone novels (Until you're Mine might be the first in a trilogy), and both are set in Scotland. Until You're Mine is a romantic suspense set in Glasgow and a place much like Gairloch but the final setting will be a combination of several small towns in Scotland. My Secret life with Unicorns is a romantic comedy and is based in a small town somewhere in Scotland. Both these books are still works-in-progress so the exact setting and names of the places may change. For example, I considered using Falkirk and the surrounding areas for My Secret Life with Unicorns but decided to move it to another region where there are more dairy farming but also have woodlands and forests.
I'm currently doing the research for two more series. One of them is set on a game farm in South Africa's Mpumalanga province or Eastern Cape and its closest town and the community living there. The project is more intense and I can't share anything about it yet.
How do I decide where to set the story? That is a question I often get and one I can't always answer truthfully. As I've mentioned above, I wanted to send my MC to New York but he had other ideas. And if my character sets his mind on a place, I can't change it. It doesn't work or feels right, no matter how I try to send him another way.
Of course, it is much easier to write about something you do know so I love to write about places I've visited but it is not always possible. It might be easier with fiction writing because you can use your imagination like I often do. I might take my favourite restaurant in one city and describe the vibe and decor but use it in another town, one I've made up.
I've now learned to write my observations down while I'm in a restaurant or a pub or any other place, for that matter by using my five senses. Also, when you write it down while you are there, it's easier to find metaphors or descriptions. I've used some of these in my books, even though it is not exactly the same setting.
Another trick I've learned of how to describe a house or a building is by looking at real estate ads or tourist pamphlets or tourist reviews. You never know when you'll find a gem!
Until next time