More Than a Place

Outtakes 401

More Than a Place

By Cait Collins


When I begin working on a new project, I have an idea of where I will build the story.  In other words, where do I want to place my characters?  I try to use familiar locations or places where I’ve lived instead of trying to traverse Central Park when I’ve never been there.  Even though you can get some feel of Central Park from a travel guide, it’s risky to attempt to describe the park when you’re not sure if a particular site is in the north or west part of the park.

When writing How Do You Like Me Now, I used a small west Texas town.  It’s one of those places where everyone knows his neighbor, how often the husband and wife fight, and that Jack was arrested for DWI again.  There are good things and bad, but then that’s true of every place.  By placing my characters in this town, I could describe the shot-gun house, the long, tree-lined driveway and the huge pecan tree in the back yard.  Of course there was a porch swing.

With a familiar setting, you have a better grasp of the citizens.  Are they side-takers?  Do they accept strangers?  Do they fear authority?  Can they accept change?

Bottom line is setting is more than just a location.  The setting encompasses not only the size and location of the town; it’s also the character of the place.  It’s the people and their flaws and good qualities. That’s why I would be hesitant to set a story in a place I had never visited

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