I don’t know what I was thinking of, scheduling a guest during the A-to-Z April Blogging Challenge. What a maroon.
Today totally belongs to the charming F. M. Meredith, but Eleanor Hardesty from A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE will put her post up this evening at 7PM so you can read it tomorrow, along with the Tuesday one by Farukh from the SAGE trilogy.
Marilyn Meredith has graced me with a stop on her blog book tour. She has much to teach us about setting, so let’s get to it!
F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of over thirty published novels. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Besides having family members in law enforcement, she lived in a town much like Rocky Bluff with many police families as neighbors.
The Importance of Place
Years ago I was an instructor for Writers Digest School, and one big problem I noticed in my students’ work was not knowing where things were going on. If the characters were talking to one another nothing was mentioned about the location of the conversation. I wanted to know if it was happening outside in a garden, what the garden looked like, or if in a house, what room and how was it decorated. You get the idea.
Every story should be happening somewhere. It can be a real place or a fictional place. If it’s a real place it needs to have things where they really are. One way streets need to go the right direction. (If you get it wrong, a reader will let you and many others know.) If you use a fictional place, then it needs to be situated near real places and have the same kind of weather etc.
One reason I use a fictional place for my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, I wanted it to stay the same over a period of years unless I wanted a change. Though the series has been going on for a long time and the books only come out once a year—time moves much more slowly.
Rocky Bluff is a small beach town in Southern California located between Ventura and Santa Barbara. There are some small towns there similar to my fictional Rocky Bluff, though the geography is a bit different. Usually the real town is on both sides of the 101 highway with an underpass—so Rocky Bluff is the same.
I know everything about Rocky Bluff: the stores and restaurants, what the houses look like in the different neighborhoods, the ranches and orange groves on the eastside of the highway, as well as the people who live there. On the ocean side, there are nice beaches, sand dunes, old cottages, a classy seafood restaurant, a condemned pier, and a campground. The Rocky Bluff Police Department is underfunded and understaffed.
I know what the weather is like in this area and I use it as part of the setting. Anywhere along the coast fog rolls in the morning and at night, sometimes worse than others. Fog makes for spooky settings. The only time fog isn’t a regular visitor is when there are what are called Santa Ana winds–hot winds that blow in from the east.
Setting is an important part of any story.
F. M. aka Marilyn Meredith
College student, Veronica Randall, disappears from her car in her own driveway, everyone in the Rocky Bluff P.D. is looking for her. Detective Milligan and family move into a house that may be haunted. Officer Butler is assigned to train a new hire and faces several major challenges.
Violent Departures on Amazon:
Because it has been popular on my other blog tours, once again I’m offering the chance for the person who comments on the most blog posts during this tour to have a character named for him or her in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.
Or if that doesn’t appeal, the person may choose one of the earlier books in the series—either a print book or Kindle copy.
For tomorrow I’ll be visiting http://buriedunderbooks.blogspot.com and revealing where I come up with new ideas for my ongoing series.
Thanks, Marilyn! Everybody go follow her book tour and join in the contest! It’ll be fun!
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Look at your work in progress and see if you could enrich a scene with a sense of place. Or, if you don’t have a work in progress, read Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and see what he does with setting.
Marilyn MeredithApril 6, 2015 at 9:11am
Thank you so much Marian for hosting me today–sorry it conflicted with your A to Z commitment, but I’m happy you were willing to do this.
Marian AllenApril 6, 2015 at 4:10pm
Not just willing — delighted! You gave us a wonderful post on an important and often undervalued element of story. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. 🙂
Patricia GligorApril 6, 2015 at 10:11am
Setting is very important to me too, Marilyn. Actually, an old Victorian on a quiet street on the west side of Cincinnati was the inspiration for my Malone mystery series.
Marilyn MeredithApril 6, 2015 at 7:44pm
I love to find houses that I think my characters would live in. Thanks for your comment, Patricia.
Jackie Taylor ZortmanApril 6, 2015 at 11:01am
Following Marilyn’s blog tour is much like a daily writing lesson and I so enjoy reading them. One question for you, Marilyn. Is the pier in your blogs in Rocky Bluff? I know it’s a fictitious place, but since this pier seems to be consistent, is that your intention? It’s very beautiful, either way. Another interesting blog today.
Marilyn MeredithApril 6, 2015 at 7:47pm
That pier is in Ventura. There is an abandoned pier in Rocky Bluff that’s played an important part in several of the books, but haven’t been able to find a suitable pier to take a picture of. And thanks for the kind comment.
Morgan MandelApril 6, 2015 at 4:23pm
I like to make up fictional towns. I’ve started a small series about one called Deerview in Wisconsin. When I use actual locales, then I have to be more particular about the setting, so I don’t get people telling me I have streets wrong, etc.
Marilyn MeredithApril 7, 2015 at 9:45am
I agree with you, Morgan, using real places causes more problems. Thanks for leaving a comment.
Liz A.April 6, 2015 at 6:01pm
I know that area! When I lived in Oxnard, we used to drive up to Santa Barbara on that lovely stretch of the 101. Great setting.
Marilyn MeredithApril 6, 2015 at 7:48pm
Liz, we lived in Oxnard for years–and much of what I write about in the series has it’s roots in Oxnard way back–of course the geography and setting are different.