Sunday, August 16, 2009


I've been thinking about settings lately because I'm beginning a new book, and one of the hallmarks of Harlequin Presents are the glamorous, international settings. I've written a book set mostly in Spain, where I've traveled, two books set in Mediterranean kingdoms I made up (though I have traveled to Italy, so I used some of that culture), and now I'm starting a new one set somewhere I've never been: Argentina.

It's a little scary thinking of setting a book in a place where I haven't walked down the streets, eaten the food, or smelled the air. Yet with guidebooks and Google Earth, I'm hoping I don't do too bad a job of making Buenos Aires come alive for the reader.

I really like making up places, though. It frees you to create without fear that a reader will angrily take you to task for messing up the geography of her hometown. In a couple of my unsold manuscripts, I made up small towns in the US and had so much fun with the quirks of small town life without the fear of getting something wrong.

Where do you set your books? Do you make up towns or kingdoms or islands? Or do you use places you've been? Or do you use guidebooks, Google Earth, and locals to create settings in places you've never been? What's your favorite setting?

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Jeanie said...

I like to make them up. The paranormal I'm writing right now is set in a fictional small Southern town that is loosely based on my hometown and on the town where I live today.

Like you, I enjoy the freedom of making up my own places without worrying about getting the facts wrong. Of course, the downside is you have to create it from scratch, which can be daunting. I keep an in-depth index so I won't lose track of the details.

I have more trouble with decor and fashion than I do with topography. That's when I consult google to get ideas. Isn't the web great! Of course, you have to be careful that your sources are accurate, 'cause there's a lot of misinformation out there.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Jeanie! I love the idea of a fictional town for a paranormal. Makes so much sense to me. I have a paranormal idea that I don't have time to write, unfortunately, but my plan was to make up a town based loosely on where I live too. I love that freedom to make up your setting!

But I also love exploring the glamorous settings of the world, too. It's a bit more work, and you're right about being careful of your research! Google is fabulous, but must be taken with a grain of salt. :)

Kate Diamond said...

I like to make up my settings, though it's always based on places I know well. My small town for contemporaries, Glen Keefe, is a composite of Snoqualmie and Olympia (two towns in the Pacific Northwest where I've lived).

M.V.Freeman said...

I really like to make up all the places I write about, unless its a large city like New York. (but in one story of mine, I have to create a whole world)

But, google earth is the best thing ever!

Still, settings sometime intimidate me, especially if I am writing something that is set "currently" as opposed to making up the time and the world.

Still, half the fun is jumping in feet first. Everything is fixable...:)

Karen Beeching said...

I make up fictional towns, buildings, streets, etc., and mix them with real towns, buildings, streets, etc.

I read once someone criticized Dan Brown's use of a candle stick (because of the weight!) in the Da Vinci Code. Holy smokes, a candle stick! This had me stressing about every word for awhile. But I'm learning to let go. It helped when I switched to writing paranormal romance. Seriously, if you have someone walking through a wall, who cares if the pile of bricks really exists somewhere?

It can be stressful. I too have more of a problem with decor and fashion, Jeanie.

I research everything and make up the rest. :)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I think it's good to base the fake settings on places you know, Kate! It lends that authenticity, I think. :)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Mary! I think making up a world sounds like fun. I keep toying with this whole paranormal/UF idea I have. But I don't have time to write it. By the time I get time, the trend will have moved on, LOL.

I wasn't really intimidated writing about Spain because I'd been there. But yeah, writing about Argentina now is a bit intimidating.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Karen, LOL! A candle stick? Man, that would tend to make me worry too. But then I've begun to realize that you just can't please everyone. I'll try to write the best story I am capable of and let the chips fall where they may.

I just discovered in the copy edits to my most recent book that I'd had the hero say something in Spanish when he is actually Italian. Yikes! Thank God I caught it, but I'm sure I'll make mistakes in the future that will get through. I try not to worry about them too much, though of course I want to be as accurate as I can.

Christine said...

Where I live is where I write, but I fictionalize it all... well, I am lazy... I admit it... it's the achilles heel of my writing.