Choosing a Setting: How do you choose?

Scotland2007 019I’ve been thinking a lot about setting and atmosphere recently. It definitely isn’t one of my strengths, and I want to change that – and what better opportunity than the latest rewrite? I’ve also found a few problems where the setting I chose just doesn’t work.

Which begs the question: how do you choose the right setting?

The question works on two levels. First there’s the general setting for your entire story, whether it’s Regency England, or maybe the darkside of Mars. Then there’s the more specific question of what settings to select for specific scenes. I’ve heard differing things about how many settings you should have for your whole book – some suggesting about a maximum of five. And while I understand that this helps ground the reader – and the writer, too – I do find this a bit limiting, especially in some books where necessity demands you move to different settings, like various crime scenes (unless all your victims are killed in the same place … wouldn’t that just make it easy to wait around until the killer comes back?).

Anyway … how do you choose? What makes the best setting?

Donald Maass in “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook,” suggests that each location can be “an opportunity to enrich your story” (176). The setting can alter and create a mood. I’ve seen this done lately (and really well) by Amanda Stevens in her Graveyard Queen series (which I confess to being totally addicted to – read them. They’re awesome.) She seemingly effortlessly creates this creepy and intriguing setting, especially in “The Kingdom” (book 2), where even the arrival of the protagonist, Amelia, hints at what’s to come. In that novel, the setting really is a character … but what character to choose?

The easy answer, of course, is “whatever I want,” but that’s a silly answer. Just because I want my second scene set on the moon with naked dancing alien-babies in the background doesn’t mean it will work … especially in my Regency romance. Thus, one must look to the overall setting to decide on the specific. The possibilities are not endless, but they seem to be. A tavern? The protagonist’s front parlor? A boxing club?

Time for your input. If you’re a writer, how do you choose your settings? What is it about a particular setting that makes it matter more? Do you limit how many you use? As a reader, do you have a preference for setting? Is there a point when there’s too many settings?

Thanks, as always, for reading, and hope you have a fabulous week. Oh, and if you like this post and don’t yet follow, why not? You wouldn’t want to miss a post would you? (Don’t worry I don’t bite … trying to set a good example for the kidlet.)