While waiting to find a publisher for my suspense mystery, THE STINKING FLOWER, I’ve started another mystery. Although I can delay deciding on all the key turning points, all those who’ll end up dead, and even on the name of the villain, I do need a setting. The where of a story can include so much and make such a difference to a story that I’m revisiting it for a second week.
My fellow blogger, E.B. Davis, has referred to the location of her novel, the Outer Banks, and has included in her story a local celebrity, Blackbeard. I look forward to reading her published novel and visualizing the setting. I will not be visiting the Outer Banks to find out if Elaine’s portrayal of the area is totally accurate. I don’t care if she’s missed out a one-way street. If a story feels real to me while I’m reading, that is all I ask.
Certain activities in a story are included in the setting. I can understand an avid gun person being annoyed if the way a gun fires or the type of bullet used is incorrect in a story. Annoyed yes, and maybe the irritated reader sends an email to the author so he/she does better research. However to stop reading the story that otherwise works, that isn’t something I’d do.
I’m familiar with hospitals and medical treatments and I’ve seen writers make mistakes with code blues, medical machinery, and drugs. I feel the need to correct these mistakes and do so, in my head. I will continue reading the book if the characters and story hold my attention.
Writers sometimes tell me they are tired of Agatha Christie settings. So am I. I read her books in grade school and was amazed that such a seemingly old-fashioned and lady-like woman could come up with so many crime plots. The society into which she was born no longer exists. Modern British authors write police procedurals, PI’s, amateur sleuths, thrillers, and cozies.
When I was growing up in the UK, I saw many cowboy movies. The whole setting was foreign to me, men on horseback for days, vast plains, and cattle as numerous as the people in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. As a young girl, I was interested in horses so I watched the cowboy movies but I forgot the plots and lonely male characters before I left the cinema.
Recently I watched a TV series on the last cowboys. Instead of horses, the cowboys had trucks and ATV’s. On small farms, the wife helped and the children were training to take over the farm one day. On larger farms, extended families and employees worked together. Calving season corresponded with the snow season and every dead calf meant the cowboy farmer lost money. I was sad to see a young animal born and then freeze to death within the first few hours of life. I cared about these latter day cowboys and their families, and wanted them to succeed. I never did know where the cowboys in Western movies were taking all those cattle.
Sometimes writers are urged to find unusual settings so they stand out from the pack. As many readers, I enjoy learning new things while I’m being entertained. Maybe I have a morbid mind or a little bit of vulture DNA because I especially like learning about autopsies and funeral homes.
Although the web and smart phones have changed the way many of us live, there are areas near my home where people can’t connect with the web and there’s no cell phone reception. My daughter tells me texts always get through but I haven’t yet put that to the test.
A setting is so much more than the accurate depiction of streets and public buildings. An in-depth setting captures the thinking and mood of the time, and the ripple effect of both personal and public events on the local community. Even a thunderstorm is a very different event in a city compared with a rural area. My protagonist, in her early thirties, likes cities but she also longs for the peace and proximity to nature of rural areas. Her story takes place in Boston and Western Massachusetts.
WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Sasscer Hill on 5/18 and Carolyn Mulford on 5/25. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at email@example.com.