Creating your Settings…real or fictitious?

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How do you choose the setting to start your stories? Do you pick an urban or rural location? A restaurant, a park bench in an isolated area? Or perhaps a cabin on the lake?

Do you use real cities and provinces/states, or do you know from the start you’re going to make them up as you go? Do you create an oasis for your readers to get lost into, to the point they so desperately want to visit the place, and actually Google it, only to find out it doesn’t really exist (you’ve done that too, haven’t you)?

You’ve dreamed of places you’ve never been to, so you try to describe them to your readers — and yourself— as best as you can, weaving them into your novel.

A couple of days ago, I noticed something in an author’s signature that piqued my curiosity. It said Word Traveler above her name. I found this interesting and emailed her to ask what she meant by that, thinking perhaps she was a freelance travel writer. She told me:

Word Traveler refers to my love of words, both reading and writing them. They take me places I’ve never been. ~ Cindy Huff

Oh wow… I absolutely love it. I never thought of it this way but it is so true.

Isn’t that what we do when we write? We create places we’ve never been to. We want  our readers to get lost in them. It is an escape from the every day world. Some writers use real places, such as certain cities they’re familiar with, the names of streets where they’ve lived, and even a well-known restaurant or landmark that bring warm memories to mind.

People and events are not the only thing that leave an impression so strong we want to write about them. For me, places do too. I used fictitious cities and locations in my first novel. In Emma’s Prayer, however, I mentioned my favourite restaurant. It is located in a small town called Shediac (I refer to it as well), about 30 minutes outside of Moncton, New Brunswick. Known as the Lobster Capital of the World, you’ll find a massive 90-tonne sculpture near the edge of town. Gabriele’s Inn, just down the road, is a famous spot for seafood lovers who come to the area. I still remember the first time I set foot in that restaurant. Cozy, warm, friendly atmosphere. I asked permission to mention it in my novels.

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Many places I’ve been to have left their mark on my heart, and I love to tell the world about them even though I write fiction. The ranch I refer to in my WIP bears a fictitious name, but when I developed that scene, I saw myself at Broadleaf Guest Ranch, where my husband and I went horseback riding earlier this year. The lake in my last novel brought me back to my childhood, where my parents owned a cottage for many years. I miss that place.

Warm memories are great to create settings. How do you create yours?

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