Setting the Scene, or, How Important is Location in Fiction?

Building a place is not an easy process.

If we’re talking about a continent, such places have been shaped over the course of millions of years and epochs, involving volcanic activity, erosion, and the shifting of continental plates. If we’re talking about a chemical or power plant, it would be a process like the one my father helped oversee numerous times over his career, involving blueprints, pipe stress tests, dozens of experts in different fields of engineering and construction, and months of work.

Now, imagine doing that just in your own mind. Even though the level of planning and sophistication needed to plan a place is not required for fiction, it is a very involved process that you want to make sure that you get done right. Making sure that you build a good setting for your fiction is something that can be very important. In the right hands, a location can be almost as much of a character as live human beings.

It is something that I’ve had to put a lot of thought and care into during my time as a writer. To help illustrate what you have to keep in mind when creating a physical setting for your characters, I think a few examples from my own fiction might help explain some of the complications.

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