Thursday, May 29, 2014

How important is your setting?

by Maria Geraci

There's three rules in real estate and we all know what they are. Location, location, location. Where your house or real estate is located will not only determine the asking price, but it will also influence how quickly it sells. Everyone wants prime real estate, and fiction is no exception. Your story setting is almost (and in some cases) just as important as your characters, their goals, and motivation. In fact, your setting is most likely intertwined with your story in such a way that you couldn't separate it out. Think of Stephanie Plum outside of New Jersey. Nope. Can't do it. And I wouldn't want to either.

World building is the backdrop to any good story. Your characters have to be believable and so does the world they inhabit.

Now, when I say real, what I mean is, it has to feel real to the reader. When the reader flips through the pages of your story, she has to be able to "see" the world you've built. It must feel familiar in a way that she can understand, even if it's exotic and faraway.

Think of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I've never been to Scotland (and neither had Gabaldon when she began writing Outlander), but her descriptions feel real to me, probably because she's a fantastic writer, but also because she researched the hell out of it.

I don't write rich lush historical novels. I write contemporary romance and women's fiction. All my stories are different, but they all have one thing in common. Location. They're all set in Florida. Partly because the stories lend themselves to the beach setting, but mostly because that's where I'm from. It's where I was raised and it's what I know. I know the people, the weather, the inside jokes, the uniqueness of living here. I love being a Floridian, and I think it shows in my writing.

In my third novel, THE BOYFRIEND OF THE MONTH CLUB, the majority of the story takes place in a small Daytona Beach tourist trap called Florida Charlies (totally fictional). Florida Charlies was a homage to the dozens of tacky tourist shops I used to visit as a kid on family vacations to old Florida standards like Weeki Wachi and Silver Springs (pre-Disney Florida amusement parks). There was a huge neon flamingo on top of the shop that could be seen from miles away. I had a lot of fun creating that shop. It was as as real to me as the characters in the book and the novel's main story line intersects with the events happening in the shop. If I took the shop out, my story would have suffered.

How do you go about choosing the setting for your novels? Are all your settings similar (like mine) or have they all been different? Do you write what "you know" or do you research heavily?

Maria Geraci writes fun, romantic women's fiction. You can visit her website at


  1. My settings are definitely characters in my books! I've done NYC, LA, and the Hamptons. I'm a big fan of writing what I know, where setting is concerned. And even though I knew the Hamptons really well, that book still required a TON of research. (And copious amounts of Tate's cookies.)

  2. I agree, Maria. I can gloss over a place I've never been, but I doubt I'd have the wherewithal to set a book there! For me, the good news is I've lived up and down the East Coast (with the exception of your Florida) so I feel like I have room to roam. On the other hand, it's doubtful I'll ever set a book too far west of Philadelphia!