By Lisa T. Bergren
One of the things I love best in fiction is when I’m not only captivated by the story and characters, but also feel like I’ve been on a mini vacation in “visiting” that story’s setting. My favorite authors spin a descriptive web of sounds and sights and smells, so intricate and wide, that I feel like I’m “on location” too.
I suppose it takes even more skill to put characters in a white box of a setting and still capture an audience, but I’m afraid I’d bow out early, as a reader or writer. There’s something about a locale that tells us a bit more about the characters themselves, their history. What brought them there? Kept them there? Will they be there forever? Just for a time?
It speaks of possibility…or limitations. For example, characters on a mountain ranch might be susceptible in their isolation…and yet perhaps closer to God without the bustle and sway of city dwellers. Characters in a city might find unique opportunities in brushing up against so many others every day…or never get deeper than the surface layer.
The romantic in me loves a lush, vibrant setting for my lush, vibrant characters. That’s why I’ve settled into Italy for a time. It’s a land of passionate, open people, curving, green hills, ancient, crumbling ruins, food with explosive flavor, lavender gardens buzzing with fat bees, sage you can smell on the wind, tolling bells in the distance, rainstorms that close in, pound for a while, and then disappear as if they never happened at all. Can’t you just taste a bit of Tuscany in those details? I love that you-are-there feeling as a reader. I hope I pass on a bit of it to my readers too.
Because of my passion for a story’s setting, I’ve placed characters in Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, Maine, Colorado, Italy, France…territory I’ve fallen a little in love with. Next up will be books set in England, France, Switzerland, and yeah, you guessed it, back to Italy. Because it seems I can’t get far from Toscana, even if I leave her for a time.
How ‘bout you? Name a novel that made you feel like “you were there.” Or where would you place characters if you were writing a novel? Please comment below.