Setting lends authenticity to our writing, and readers feel it. It makes the reading and writing experience whole.
Often one of the first questions I’m asked when I speak about my second novel, Passing Love, is, “Why Paris?” Of course, the smart aleck in me always replies, “why not?”
Seriously, why not choose a setting you love, are fascinated with or curious about? Why not choose a place that you can turn into as great a character as those who walk through it? Why not choose a setting your character hates and try to convince her that she does? It makes you, the writer, happy and excited to face the computer from one day to the next.
I’ve always loved France, the country and the language. I’m sure my Francophile nature has everything to do with my name. So, you could say the location came to me quite naturally. I love my hometown, Oakland, and the surrounding San Francisco Bay Area, too, and I include those settings in my work. All of these places are where I feel comfortable and so writing about them feels natural to me and, by extension, to my readers.
|A Paris passage--an original mall|
As I wrote about my characters’ first visit to Paris, I recalled the energy and beauty of the city, the awe that came with the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower glowing at midnight. I wanted my readers to experience what that setting felt like. Paris was an important fulfillment of a dream for one of my characters and for another it was a contrast to life in the pre-World War II south.
Setting gives a character a way to maneuver through everyday life. It can weave its way through a story and move a character forward. It wraps around story, so that the reader nearly has a three dimensional experience. Setting doesn’t always require tons of detail. But, if your character is losing bits and pieces of her clothing as she descends Rome’s Spanish Steps, you might want to write a lengthier description just so we understand what will happen when she gets to the last step.
I'm not sure when "the muse" will take one me or a new character back to Paris, but I know that regardless of setting, I'll try to bring readers into the story so that they understand where my characters are and the challenges setting can present. If I do this well, by the time they reach the end, they’ll feel satisfied--or ready to buy a ticket.
Jacqueline Luckett is the author of Passing Love and Searching for Tina Turner. She admits that for the sake of “authenticity,” she’s traveled to Paris many times and is positive that there is more for her to learn about that wonderful setting.
All photos are copyright, Jacqueline Luckett, 2014.