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Setting


After a neighborhood drive by and a phone call, we've ironed out where the story is taking place. In school you learn that a story needs three things: plot, characters, and setting. Which is sort of true. (Actually, a story needs only one thing: to be interesting. But that makes a lousy lesson plan.)


Of the three things a story needs, setting is the weak sister. Some stories work because the problem is interesting. (Agatha Christie and Stephanie Meyer come to mind. Characters may be wooden, but the puzzle or romantic situation speaks to lots of people.) Many stories succeed because the characters are so darn appealing. (Austen's plots are pretty simple, and some of Dickens' are ridiculous, but the people draw you in. Of course it helps that the actual writing is real good too.) I can't think of a single story that I love due to its setting. Westeros, Earthsea, any cabin in any woods -- the places inform the stories but they are not the reason why we watch or read.


But - and this is my point - I like a story that is grounded. I like to know exactly where my folks are walking. And now I do. I can see the house I will write about today. I can visualize the street that Cody will walk on his way to school. This knowledge gives me confidence, and the confident author is more likely to be convincing. And, when all is said and done, the one thing that editors, publishers, agents, and readers are looking for is conviction.

Because that's the way you get to interesting.

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Richard Scrimger | scrimgerr@gmail.com | Toronto, ON, Canada