NaNoWriMo is in its first full week! And I think I’m doing quite good. My goal for NaNo this year is 40K but I’m starting to think maybe I’ll reach 50, or even beyond, if I stay at the rate that I’ve been keeping up. In my first week, I’ve reached just under 20K and I’m really excited to continue this novel.
And yes, it does still need a title. It has a really crappy edited cover that says “Evie and Austin Story” on the official NaNo website haha but it needs a legit title. If you guys come up with a title, please make sure to share them with me, because you get a prize if you pick THE title.
Let me know how your progress is doing in the comments!
Today we’re talking about setting.
In all of the novels that I’ve written, I’ve based it on real world places, and done lots of research on those places. Or I’ve straight up used real places like New York City and Mesa Verde in Colorado and Brea, California.
But for this newest novel, I’m writing an entirely new setting: Macon, California. Its a coastal town in Central California that has some real world bases in Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz (especially Santa Cruz) and a little bit of Santa Barbara, but for the most part, its all from my imagination.
Do you know how hard it is to create a new setting! Its crazy. So while I’ve been trying to get my word count up, I’ve also been working hard at making sure that Macon seems like a genuine town. Because if there’s one thing that I’ve learned: setting is a character all in its own. Think of Middle Earth, Hogwarts, Tortall, Idris, Panem, Camp Half Blood. They all have their own personalities. They react to the story, they are effected by the story, they’re just so massively important.
So I scoured the internet to look for tips on creating setting and I gathered a few of them here for you!
1. Base Your Setting on Real World Places
It goes back to what I said about Macon. Macon is a completely fictional town. It’s small town, coastal, with a beach boardwalk, a small town downtown main street with family owned businesses. But I throw things off when I insert a baseball obsessed population. And that population is obsessed with the university that exists in this town. Sounds complicated right? There isn’t an actual place that exists like this. So I’ve used real life references in Santa Barbara, Monterey Bay and mostly, Santa Cruz. These three are all real coastal cities in California. Having these real life bases helps to create a town because you have examples. You know how things can be arranged because you have a real life basis for it. I have no idea how to arrange a fictional city because I’ve never been a city planner. I don’t know how that works. So I kind of mesh these cities together and voila, Macon, California!
2. Base Your Setting on Real Time Periods
Now, this doesn’t totally apply to me and this particular novel. My novel is based in real world time, right now, in the present. So that’s easy enough. I can have iphones and smart cars and macbooks and Netflix and it alllllll makes sense. This could also work for historical novels as well. You have a real world time period to base off of. There’s information out there (yay research!) that will help you to make sure your setting is historically accurate.
But this also works quite well for a fantasy novel, or science fiction, that sort of thing. You can base your fantasy society based on the medieval settings of old Europe. You can base your futuristic society on the Victorian age of the Industrial Revolution. Creating a brand new setting in a brand new world is HARD because you have no real world basis for this society. BUT you can use time periods to help you out. Feudal societies, capitalism, communism, empires, Chinese dynasties, the Crusades, etc. There is SO much history out there that you can rework to base your own setting on.
3. Create Rules
When I say create rules, this could go either way. In a completely fictional world, you need to make sure you create its government, its politics, its social strata, its laws, weather, climate, all that sort of thing. This is incredibly important because this is going to have an effect on the characters and the plot and all of that. Setting places an enormous part on our lives. Where we live, the rules we live under, play a HUGE part in our lives: getting our licenses at a certain age, drinking at a certain age, getting a job, paying bills, all those sorts of things come from the setting: where we live. So this is important when creating an entirely new place. Set the rules because you’ll need to follow those. They have a profound effect on your characters.
Now when you’re creating a fictional place in a real world, like me, a new town in California, the rules are already there, for the most part. California has laws and weather and all of those things already. What’s important is that you remember them. California is a little easier. If I make it a really super hot day in the middle of December…it might be a little confusing to others but to those of us who live in California, we would laugh because this really happens. (Its November, and we’re expecting 80 degree weather all week). But making sure you don’t make it a super hot day when writing your fictional town on the eastern seaboard? That’s important. Making sure your 14 year old character isn’t driving a car when logically that doesn’t make sense, things like that. Follow the rules.
Treat your setting like a character. If something is happening in the story, how is your setting reacting to this. For instance, in my novel, my town is baseball obsessed. Say the the team wins a particularly difficult game. The town is going to react to this, obviously. It may not be something obvious that I distinctly point out but my main characters may go to lunch the next day, and the patrons could be wearing more orange and white (the team colors) than usual. There may be more banners in the window, the weather might look that much better, people will be happier. The setting reacts to the story. If the characters get in a fight, or have a bad day, the weather might be crappier or the sunny weather might bother them. React and interact with the characters and the setting. They have an effect on each other.
5. Its All in the Details!
Of course, details are always important. But for setting, I feel like its important because it makes your setting authentic and real. The hardest part of this for me is making them subtle and genuine. I want Macon to seem as real as possible and the details will make it so because it’ll seem like a real place. But every time I try and write a detail, I feel like its obvious that I’m trying to point out things about Macon and its hard. But the details are important. Where things are located, what the weather is like, the plant life, all that sort of subtle detail just makes it more genuine. Is it nearly an ocean? A mountain? This effects the weather, etc. There are stores on the main street but what kind of stores? That sort of thing. This is probably the one I struggle with the most and I’m working on it!
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What are some of YOUR tips on setting? Share the in the comments!