Where are we?

The best compliment I ever received came from a friend’s next door neighbor. She raced from her house one day, book in hand, and called out, “You gotta read this book.” The book she was waving was my first published book, Zoned for Murder. She went on to tell my how she thought it was a first book by “this writer” and then said, “I really liked it, and you’d swear the story is set in this town.”

I couldn’t help myself, I asked her if she wanted me to autograph it. She took a step backward and gave me that…hum, do you need confinement look, then she said, “Your name isn’t Kait Carson.” I pulled a bookmark from the stash I carry in my handbag, autographed the book, and then took her on a sightseeing tour of familiar locations. She was right. The book was set in our town and the places in our town helped drive the action of the book.

Setting is almost as important as characterization.  Characters don’t exist in a vacuum. They exist against a backdrop and that backdrop becomes a character as well. My stories take place in South Florida. Hurricanes and tropical storms make occasional appearances. Gator gushers flood streets. Heat devils shimmer on roadways. The air always tastes ever so slightly of salt. Homes and stores are tropical in color, in the Keys, they’re built on stilts. In Miami, you can determine the age of a house by its appearance, and sometimes, not always for the better. Streets disappear into a riot of color at certain times of the year when the royal poinciana trees, tabebuia, and orchid trees burst into bloom. In early spring, the air carries the scent of flowering citrus.

Those details all bring the reader into the story. They set the story and characters apart and done well, create a shorthand between reader and story that serves as an anchor for the characters. When I’m reading, I expect the writer to develop a sense of place. When I’m writing, I try to do the same for my readers.

What about you? Do you want to know where the stories you read take place? Does the setting make a difference?

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8 thoughts on “Where are we?

  1. Great job of how a writer can depict setting by using the senses, allowing the reader to see, touch, taste, smell, and hear where the action is occurring. You stated that: “Setting is almost as important as characterization.” I would take it further by saying that setting, if done effectively, IS a character. Well done, Kait! 🙂
    –Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree setting can be character and things like climate, season etc can help propell the story forward My books and short stories frequently take place in the southwest and things like earthquakes, the Santa Susanna winds and fire storms add as much conflict and color as do my antagonist. A theme for a story might be anywhere but colored with specific settings brings the story home for the reader and makes it that much more believable.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The Santa Susanna Winds are seasonal dry winds that sweep down from the Santa Susanna Mountains the surround the valley regions. Sometimes it nothing more than dry desert wind that zaps the energy from residents, other times it pushes the fires like a hungry monster.

      Liked by 1 person

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