Monday, 17 June 2013

Choosing Your Setting is as Important as Your Plot

- Guest Post by Kat H. Clayton

There are lots of elements that are important to consider when you start writing a story that will hopefully lead to a fully fledged novel. Characters, plots and themes are some of the first things that come to mind, but something equally important is the setting.

Honestly, I think and choose my setting before I really delve into the story itself. I’ll have a vague idea of my plot and a few scenes fleshed out in my mind, but the process can’t continue until I find the perfect setting for my story.

I write contemporary suspense/mystery novels, so there’s limited world building that goes on for me. I can make up towns and settings, but they have to be based within the framework of our natural world (i.e. no space colonies or underwater cities, unless of course they become reality).

For my mystery/suspense series, The Kings of Charleston, I had to find a place that to me evoked an air of mystery. Where could I place my characters that would allow even the setting to play a role in building up the tension? There were a couple of places that came to mind, but I had to really think carefully how to choose just the right one. I know there’s no keeping secret where I chose to set my novel since it’s in the title, but I think that only demonstrates even more how important the setting is to this story.

I let you know right away that the novel is set in Charleston and you immediately start to get an idea of what to expect from the story if you are familiar with the city. Charleston is a very old city (in terms of old for the United States) with lots of history. Along with that history comes a fair amount of stately mansions with tales of ghosts lurking about, old graveyards and superstitions. Another spooky element to me is the Spanish moss that hangs all over the trees like tattered cloaks. It always looks creepy to me, especially after dark or when the trees are bare and the limbs look like skeletal hands. Even the oppressive summertime heat and humidity adds an air of sexiness and intrigue.

Charleston not only added a lot of mystery, it added some sophistication because it’s known for its hospitality and old world charm. It was the perfect setting for a group of wealthy families with lots of decorum and traditions, but also with lots of secrets to keep hidden.

As you can see, so much could already be conveyed about my story simply by choosing it’s setting. And even if you are not familiar with Charleston, hopefully my descriptions of this mesmerizing Southern city will help you see my vision of why Charleston is the perfect backdrop for this particular story.

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