Monday, October 18

Traveling the World...From Your Couch!

For those of you who are impassioned followers of this blog, you'll recall that I wrote last week of a recent trip to the Finger Lakes in NY. While it is most definitely a tourist destination, each town is also extremely small and relatively isolated. They've got an old-fashioned main street that lasts about three blocks. No fast food chains - or really chains of any kind. You might have to drive twenty miles down the lake shore to get to a freeway onramp, and you'd still be miles from anything resembling a mall. Yes, it was quaint and beautiful...and would've broken me out in hives of anxiety from being so far away from 'services' if I'd spent another day there. You see, I am a born and bred city girl. I like knowing I'm five minutes from just about anything I need, no matter how esoteric. I like knowing there are people around me at all times. I like the ease of city life, the panoply of options for entertainment and food and shopping and things to do. Every time I spend (very limited) time in a small town, I shudder and say to my husband "How can people live here?" (no offense intended to anyone, trust me!).

But.....there are writers out there who set a book, or even an entire series in tiny, tiny towns. Nora Roberts Chesapeake trilogy, Carly Phillips Bachelor trilogy, Victoria Dahl's Talk Me Down, and Small Town Girl by Patricia Rice. The magical thing about these authors is that each and every one of them makes me want to move to a small town by the time I'm barely haflway through the book! They make it sound so supportive and charming and fun that I'm ready to pack up and ship out to a small shore town that closes half its businesses in the winter. Their setting is so richly woven that they are able to not only transport my mind, but practically convince me to literally transport myself to a location I know full well I wouldn't like after the first week.

For me, that is the epitome of the perfect setting. Authors are the original snake-oil salesmen. We have to convince you beyond a doubt that these wholly imaginary characters and scenarios we create are plausible enough and interesting enough that the reader will be drawn in, and care enough to give up precious free time to emotionally invest in the book. Setting is a big part of that. Readers can travel the world from the comfort of their sofa, hassle-free. As a child, reading can open unknown worlds to you, and as an adult, it allows you to vicariously vacation without dealing with passports, tarmac delays and bedbugs. I think authors have a huge responsibility to world build in every novel, whether it is set on Mars or London, or your very small hometown. If an author 100% believes in their setting, and loves it and can share that enthusiasm through their writing, while I am between their pages, it is the perfect setting.


  1. We are miles apart, literally! You ouldn't pay me enough to live in a big city. And yeah, I've done my time in Phoenix, Dallas and Jackson, and was let out for good behaviour! LOL
    I love my tiny little town. I love knowing everyone, I love knowing my waitress' name, and the girl at the gas station and the gal who takes my money at the tiny little grocery.
    And I love bringing those characters to life in my stories.

  2. Great post, Christi. Of course, I'm like D'Ann. I love the excitement of cities, but am claustrophobic within a couple of days. You're right, though; if a writer makes a perfect setting for you, that's where you want to be, or where you are while you're reading.

  3. I'm somewhere between D'Ann, Liz and you, Christi! But I love you all!! I was born and raised in a teensy little town near a vacation lake in Missouri...couldn't wait to get out and see The World. Since my small town, I've lived in big cities, medium sized towns and Nowhere Nebraska where even the big cities are miles from anywhere. I like them all, but for me a medium sized city is perfect. I like the anonymity of medium sized cities and the ability to do 'stuff' at the drop of a hat...and I love that our crime rate is low, that our neighbors still look out for each other and that everyone still shuts down for the county fair, a downtown parade or 4th of July fireworks.

  4. The idea of a small town is so appealing but then I think of all the things I'd miss. New movies. Starbucks, B&N,..ahh...don't think I could do it.

    I think I've been lucky to live in the vacinity of big city without actually living in it.

    Love the last line of your post, I might have to print it out and post it near my computer to remind me of my setting duty.