Friday, 23 August 2013

Settings Matter

by Annette Gallant

As a child, I loved the All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor. Set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 1900s, these books opened up a world to me that was totally different from the one I knew, and I longed to see the places the five sisters (and later a little brother) went, experience the things they did, while living in pre-World War I New York City. To this day, I adore books set in NYC.
Photo by Daniel Schwen
I love when settings are so vivid they seem like another character. (A recent example is The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman. After reading that book, I had serious Bali fever for weeks.) Before I started writing my current manuscript, I debated where to set it. As I hope to query the U.S. market, I considered setting my story in Maine, thinking an American setting might make my story more appealing to agents. However, as I wrote the plot demanded I set it closer to home. I’m happy with my decision, and there’s something to be said for writing what you know. For writing about a place close to your heart.
Recently, I vacationed on my home province of Prince Edward Island, the setting of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s much beloved Anne of Green Gables series. Growing up, I didn’t fully appreciate how international these books were or how they helped put PEI on the map for so many. It’s only now, as an adult, that I fully get the wide-reaching appeal of her books, and how her love for our mutual island spills onto every page, making it come alive for anyone who reads her books.

How about you? Does setting matter when you choose a book? What are some books you’ve read that had larger-than-life settings?   

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  1. I would say that settings sometimes matter to me, and sometimes don't. I write contemporaries, so if I need to set it in certain spot, I will ... but mostly I just do New York, Boston, Chicago, etc.

  2. If a story is really good for lots of other reasons, I don't mind of the setting isn't too vivid, but if a good story also has a vividly realized setting, it elevates it to a new level for me.

  3. Settings are vital to me. They allow me to envision the world within which the characters are living and can be as captivating as any character. The more evocative, the better, without going overboard with description.