Setting as Character, but Be More than a Tourist

Posted on Feb 6, 2014 by   6 Comments | Posted in Blog · Uncategorized

By Elaine Calloway 

ffnp-elaine callowayThe journalist James McBride said it the best: “As a journalist, the details always tell the story.”

We choose fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal settings for our stories. These are more than backdrops for our characters and the plot; they are the tapestry that holds our story together. The best books are where setting becomes a living, breathing character.

Think of Gone With the Wind but imagine it set in Hoboken, New Jersey. Or The Wizard of Oz, set in a steel mill in Pennsylvania?

Hard to imagine, right?

When researching a locale for your books, gather as much information as you can. This means go beyond the tourist-website top ten. With the abundance of social media these days, reach out to people on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and Pinterest – most people are willing to help answer questions about a particular place. Think of those things that are beyond what a tourist would see in a weekend.

In my book Water’s Blood, which is set in New Orleans, I do have some brief scenes in the French Quarter and on Bourbon Street. That’s what the tourists know about, but I didn’t want the book to be only about tourism spots.

I reached out to friends in Mid-City, around the City Park, Uptown, in the Burbs, and lesser known places that still have a magical feeling to them, even if they aren’t listed in the tourist handbook. If you don’t know anyone personally, ask your Twitter followers.

Adding these extra details makes your story come to life, makes your characters more realistic. As an example, New Orleans has so much more to offer than Bourbon Street. There are shotgun houses with tall ceilings that “feel” like New Orleans to a native. The Victorian homes, flanked with black wrought ironwork, look like presents wrapped up in black lace. So many things are available to put into the story besides one street of debauchery where, quite frankly, the locals tend to avoid.

What if you’re making a place up? Somewhere in outer space where there is another type of existence? Well, you can’t exactly travel there for first-hand information, but keep the same things in mind. What does the setting look like? Smell like? Are there good and bad parts of town? How does that affect your story?

The more you can make a place real, give your readers that extra oomph of setting, the happier they will be.

More About the Author

Elaine Calloway grew up in New Orleans and can still do a Cajun accent upon request. She loves all things paranormal, gothic architecture, and cemeteries. Currently, she is writing The Elemental Clan Series, a good vs. evil set of tales with Elementals and Fallen Angels set in iconic cities such as New Orleans, San Francisco, and Manhattan. Learn more about Elaine and connect with her online at

Book Blurb (Book Released 1/30):

EARTHBOUND, Book 3, Elemental Clan Series

Some say history repeats itself, but for Terran, an Earth Elemental, history has returned and slapped him in the face. Along the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, the Acobi Fallen Angels have decided to go underground–literally. They are resurrecting an old legend, shanghaiing innocent people into slavery. Underage girls are trapped and kept in holding cells, ready to be sold into the sex trade. Terran must stop the Acobi and keep the public away from the Shanghai tunnels, all while keeping his supernatural powers hidden.

Kelly Habersham, overachieving real estate developer, has finally convinced her father and brothers to give her the Portland condo project, which would require extensive construction near the tunnels. Determined to impress her father and make a name for herself in the family business, she is not about to let a Save-the-Earth guy get in her way.

Terran and Kelly must work together and come to a truce–or they may be the next shanghai victims.

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6 Responses to "Setting as Character, but Be More than a Tourist"

  1. Comment by Nancy Lee Badger
    February 7, 2014 9:40 am

    Great post! Scotland is on my research bucket list, but I do okay with books, maps, internet, and workshops. Thanks!

  2. Comment by Jessi Gage
    February 8, 2014 10:52 am

    Great tips here! Those little details definitely make the difference between a good story and a great story.

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