By Connie Mann
Have you ever started reading a book and several chapters in, had to flip back to the beginning to see if you’d missed clues as to where you were? If the setting is too generic, too Anywhere, USA, I feel uneasy, like I can’t settle into the story world because I’m still waiting for someone to tell me exactly where I am.
So how can we use settings to anchor our readers? My Dad worked for Trans World Airlines (TWA) for 38 years and we were privileged to travel quite a bit. (I’ve done many an airport sprint in heels to snag the last standby seat!) Travel taught me that destinations—from big cities to small towns--have a personality, a “feel” that sets one place apart from anywhere else on earth.
As writers, capturing that essence is part of the fun. We get to create a world for our readers, to invite them to travel with us to another place, whether it’s a real location or exists only in our imagination. We invite them in by painting pictures with words.
My new Florida Wildlife Warriors series is set in the Ocala National Forest, which is eons removed from Miami’s glitz and Disney’s animation. This is Old Florida, where Spanish moss drapes towering live oak trees and slow-moving ceiling fans stir the sultry air of a covered front porch, while alligators snooze along the banks of a lazy river. Can you feel the humidity on your skin? Smell the earthy scent of the swamp?
That feeling of walking right beside your characters, seeing what they see and feeling what they feel, is what you want to give your readers. Anchor them in a specific location. Think geography, temperature, culture, architecture, smells, sounds, foods, etc. Visit if you can and take the time to inhale deeply and absorb the feel of a place. Sit on a park bench and people watch. Is the pace slow or fast? Sophisticated or down-home? High heels or flip flops?
If you can’t go in person, talk to people who’ve been there, watch videos and study photos to find that “something” that sets a place apart. By sprinkling those “telling details” into your stories, you’ll give your readers the chance to not only experience a great story—but also to fall in love with a wonderful place.
Connie Mann is a licensed boat captain and loves writing romantic suspense stories set in Florida’s small towns and unspoiled wilderness. She is the author of Beyond Risk, (Florida Wildlife Warriors #1), the Safe Harbor series (Tangled Lies, Hidden Threat, Deadly Melody), as well as Angel Falls and Trapped! She has lived in seven different states but this weather wimp has happily called warm, sunny Florida home for more than twenty years. When she’s not dreaming up plotlines, you’ll find “Captain Connie” on Central Florida’s waterways, introducing boats full of schoolchildren to their first alligator. She is also passionate about helping women and children in developing countries break the poverty cycle and build a better future for themselves and their families. Besides boating, she and her husband enjoy hanging out with their grown children and extended family and planning their next adventure. Connect with Connie online at: www.conniemann.com The photo used in this blog post of the Silver River is owned by www.conniemann.com