Sunday, June 07, 2009

Setting Influences Character

Hello Everyone!
This month some of us are talking about settings for our stories, and I have to say I'm more excited to read this blog than ever. Back in the dark ages, all the romances were set in exotic foreign places. Now, I love those books and still read them, don't get me wrong, but I thought: hmmm, don't American men and women fall in love? Isn't there any romantic city in the USA? So when the first American settings appeared, with American men I might dream about, and American women who could just as easily be friends I grew up with, I was thrilled. (Anyone willing to believe I was also three years old?)

My first book is set in Chicago, a city known for its wind, chill, pizza, politics, and most recently, our President. There are little neighborhoods, impossible one-way streets, and places that are--well, let's just say you wouldn't want to be caught there after dark. I love Chicago. I asked the Harlequin art department to put skyscrapers on the cover of Marrying the Boss since Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright (plus others I can't think of now, sorry) "invented" the tall buildings there after the Chicago Fire. It's a big city so it has an "on the edge" feel, but with a Midwest twang. This influences the lives of my characters, of course.

For my second book, I created a fictional town outside of Kansas City, Missouri. "Howard" has a small-town flavor, where everyone knows everyone else and your mom's friends tell her if you're out on a date--or not. My hero in The Fake Fiancee had to deal with this situation after he told his mom he was "practically" engaged, when in fact he wasn't seeing anyone. Poor Joe had been out on the West Coast too long and forgotten how small towns work. His intentions were good (protecting his mom's fragile health), as he's a decent Midwestern man. I loved when characters showed up to bedevil them--at the Garden Society Exhibit, the movie theater, in restaurants, everywhere he and his "fake fiancee" went. It's fun to place the hero and heroine in boring locations (the laudromat, for instance) and see how their presence there makes the spot romantic.

The big city whirlwind and the small town coziness both appeal to me since they "grow" such different crops of characters. Do you have a preference?

Till next month,
Megan Kelly


Estella said...

I really enjoy small town settings.

Gillian Layne said...

I know small town, so when a writer gets it right I just love it! But since I don't know how large cities work, I can enjoy a romance set there because any "mistakes" won't throw me out of a story---I don't know any better! :)

Megan Kelly said...

Estella, good to know. I love to write them.
Gillian, LOL. I'm glad you can't pick up on any mistakes I made, although I did research and visit Chicago several times, plus having relatives there to get down the talk.