Where? A writer has to answer this question before a single word of the story is written.
For me, ‘where’ is everything. ‘Where’ drives the story. It sets the tone, it influences the characters, it moves the story along. It affects so many decisions made by the writer (me) as the story forms both in my head and on the paper. Some things CAN NOT happen in certain places. Other things might happen there, and the intrigue of that possibility can make for a great story.
‘Where’ affects the reader, too. As a mystery reader, the possible settings are far reaching. Not too many settings are impossible for mystery. One of my favorite mystery writers, Nevada Barr, has a way of setting her stories in places that are naturally very appealing to me–national parks. The variety of locations found in the national park system provide so many options for stories! From Yosemite to Lake Superior to Big Bend Texas and Liberty Island (to name just a few) Ms. Barr never disappoints. One book she plops her reader down in Dry Tortugas, another, she lands me on the Natchez Trace Parkway. The weather varies from hot to cold, forest to desert, and even, in one book, the inner depths of a cave (where, of course, she finds herself in the dark with a murderer.)
I love, love, love these mysteries, and if I try to emulate any writer, I think it is probably Nevada Barr. (Give her a try if you haven’t yet!)
Knowing your setting is key to writing a successful mystery. In the three books I’ve published so far, Cobwebs, Ant Dens and Beehives, I am very familiar with the settings. I’ve physically spent days and nights in these settings, and studied the history that was made there. The setting, and its history, drive my stories.
One of the more enjoyable things about being an author is the background research on setting. Writers sometimes travel to exotic places with a story–yet to be written–in their minds. This year – 2016 – I’ll take a trip or two to places I’ve never been and you can bet these settings will appear in some future mystery I write. So you’re wondering – Where is she going?
Where is the question, isn’t it? Stay tuned.
And have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!
(If you wondered about the featured image – it’s a beautiful place on the southwestern coast of Ireland. I traveled there with my husband in 2014.)