There has been a discussion over on RWA.org, in the End Challenge forum about setting. The original poster wondered how hard it was to change setting in a book you wrote. Answers ranged from not hard to near impossible.
And of course the Artsy Fartsy, whatever carries the plot, came in. One of the comments spoke of trying to carry the plot by having someone in a Regency get off the train at Waterloo Station. [Go look at the links. You’ll understand why this doesn’t work] as an example of the very poor, “it carried the plot that’s why I put it in” excuse.
My answer was, if you CAN make it work and it fits the reality you are writing in, do it. If you write realistic romances, don’t put the Golden Gate Bridge in Philly. You can fudge a bridge. Say you need to make a Senator in your book important for some reason. His name is Jordan Bryce Williams. You can create and throw in a bridge called the Senator Jordan Bryce Williams bridge in Philly and comment on it as long as you give us a damn good reason for that bridge to exist. If you write an Alternative history/universe Romance book you can play fast and loose. You can put the Golden Gate Bridge in Philly IF you provide a good reason for it. If you write future romances [see J.D. Robb aka Nora Roberts], you can set that story in NYC of 3401 or the New Orleans Underwater city of 4512 without much change except place names.
It all depends.
That works right? Nope. When you screw up, expect an epic fail. It may only be one reader but you really don’t want the reaction I had today to a Romance by another author I was reading. You do NOT want them to laugh so hard they have tears running out of their eyes when you don’t intend to be funny.
The culprit? Setting. The entire damn story was slammed dunked in the garbage because of one damn town name.
The setting was cops and an agency we call here, Children and Youth. An extremely abused child was to be the device to draw the MCs back together. It’s working. Stretching but working. I’m a damn poor beta for you if you write cop novels and don’t know what you are doing. I’m critical of those who DO know what they are doing. And my one kid works for Children and Youth.
BUT the writer is surviving. A compliment to him.
I read a line. The abused child was born in XX [town].
I know that town. I was a teen in that town. I went to the local high school. My grandparents were married there in 1920. I… He had to have pulled it out of a google hat right? Saw it. Thought it looked good. Frankly I’ll accept that. BUT, I flipped to his bio. Born.. whole other state. Okay. Yeah he googled a name wait… He now lives in a city 40 miles away from there. THAT SOB IS USING MY TOWN. Now why I had that initial reaction? He had the kid being born in a town that has no hospital. Strike one. I know pregnant women who MAKE their husband drive them to the nearest city so they don’t have to go to the local hospital in the next town. He’s got my attention but NOT in a good way.
I keep reading. By the time I finished two paragraphs of what should have been a serious scene with cops and an abused child? I was laughing so hard I was crying. He blew it. Sky high.
He picked the one of the towns in the USA that is the ONLY town to show up when you google that name. And I know it. Well. Hated the hell out of it when I lived there and couldn’t wait to leave it.
What he is writing inadvertently hits on all our local jokes about it. He got enough wrong about it and Children and Youth that I don’t think he knows it. This romance has now turned into an unbelievable epic fail and an unintentional comedy.
I went back to editing Standing Stone. Setting just ruined the entire story.
I use the same town in Standing Stone. But I know that place. I also knew I needed to fictionalize it because I was playing fast and loose with the setting. Beggerton does NOT exist. The town it is based on, does. It makes it easier to write things like Joe’s wild ride across the pedestrian bridge in the second chapter. However, Will’s house doesn’t exist. The view and the hill does. I stood on that balcony on the second floor and looked toward those power lines like Will did when he watched the storm. Joe’s house does but instead of 18 miles away, the power line and the two houses I use [along with a farm I grew up on] is close to 30 and yes, you can see that far from “Will’s balcony”.
I use the setting wisely. Does the Moon exist? Right down to the bars on the window but it isn’t the Moon. And it wouldn’t be surprising to hear an argument over someone’s huntin’ dogs. They can’t make baked hoagies there, I stole them from another bar in a nearby town. I loved those baked hoagies when I was a teen. They sure are good so Kitty [who doesn’t exist. Sorry, none of the characters exist.] makes the best damn baked hoagies…
Is the sheriff’s office like Ray’s? Nope. The State Police? Nope. The restaurants? Nope. I changed things. And I changed the name. But Beggerton is Beggerton and it will always be exactly what it is. Right down to those Chubby Cherubs who are County supervisors. So if I plunked a hospital down on the edge of town headin’ south, you aren’t going to go WTF if you are ever at the real one. Because it doesn’t exist in the town I based it on but it does in MY version of that town. That’s what makes it work when I add something. I just have to convince you that Beggerton really exists. My job is easier by the fact, I can walk through the town in my mind using my town. I took a skeleton and put a town on top of it.
It’s sort of like taking the evacuated town of Centralia before they tore down the buildings and creating another community on the bones
Does Just One Look do this? No. It’s not set there. And I can’t do the same thing. I know the town it is in but I don’t know it like you do a home town. And I wouldn’t even try to create a setting like I did for Standing Stone. I could in turn flip Just One Look into any University town area I wanted. I cannot flip Standing Stone.
BOTH fit the books they belong to.
Lost Lambs? It’s set in the future. I can create any dang thing I want and it fits anywhere in the world and any century as long as it is the future.
We do settings as needful. What was his mistake? Using a local name of a town that is the ONLY town that shows up if you google the name. It went downhill from there. He should have just fictionalized the name. I did. You will not find a town named Beggerton. It saves you from hysterical readers who can’t stop laughing.
Yep. Setting counts pantsers. Think about it. I’ll probably delete the book. Damn shame. It was a good little book right up until he thew me completely out of the story. You do that enough times and you’ll lose your fans. Sure. Someone who didn’t live there won’t have the same reaction. But it does point out some important things about settings and plots. Use it wisely.
[PS. WordPress? The blue improved still sucks]