Tuesday, November 3, 2015

When a Setting is More Than a Place

with guest Candee Fick

Good morning, Seekerville! I was here last fall after ten years of pursuing my fiction-writing dream and offered my advice for surviving when The Journey to Publication Feels Like a Never-ending Story. Well, dreams do come true and I’m super-excited to say that as of yesterday I’m now officially published with Catch of a Lifetime in addition to being under contract for another novel releasing next September.

With that not-so-minor celebration out of the way, let’s move on to today’s topic of settings. When I dreamed up a romance between an assistant football coach and a football-hating athletic trainer in Catch of a Lifetime, I decided to place the story in a fictional university in northern Colorado that competed at the NCAA Division I level. (Yes, it was inspired by the real location in the photo above.)

At first glance, my chosen location brought to mind a number of unique spots for scenes to take place. Characters could interact on the practice field, sidelines, classrooms, parking lots, athletic training facilities, coaches offices, and team meeting rooms. There would also be restaurants around town, apartments, and church services. Because the football team would be traveling for away games, I also had hotels and football stadiums in other states to consider.

Lesson 1: By picking a setting with a variety of potential scene locations, I didn’t need to worry about boredom from action taking place in the same place over and over.

However, my setting was more than a physical place with deep blue skies and majestic mountains to the west. Colorado also meant changing seasons, decreasing hours of daylight, and weather that would get colder and colder with each passing week. A university setting meant I needed to incorporate class schedules, syllabi, exams, homework, and back-breaking backpacks loaded down with textbooks. A football program also had additional routines between meetings, practices, and games. What was life like for a student-athlete there? What other senses could I add to my descriptions? (Imagine for a very brief moment the aroma of a football locker room after a game, and then let’s quickly move on.) Let’s not forget game action scenes either.

Lesson 2: Digging deeper into the setting gave me plenty of realistic details to weave in and make the story come alive for readers. I could easily get inside the everyday lives of my characters and experience the action with them.

I wasn’t done digging. What challenges would the players face balancing their studies and practices? What if one of them needed a tutor? Would there be rules about players dating their assigned tutors or even coaches dating graduate students? What happens when a multitude of testosterone-laden competitors spend hours together every day? Any egos that might get rubbed the wrong way? And what if they lost a game? How would they respond? Would the media or influential boosters be calling for the head coach to get fired? What if a player or coach brought a scandal down around the program? Oh boy, now we’re talking serious conflict potential.

Lesson 3: By exposing the existing tension in the setting and incorporating at least some of the issues into the plot, I could easily add natural conflict to the story and almost turn the setting into a secondary character.

Let’s try a different scenario on for size. Imagine a dinner theater. Hmm. Food of course. Tables with white linen tablecloths. Dim lighting. The clink of silverware and the buzz of conversation. An entertaining show full of music and costumes. Lots of potential to include all of the senses in the descriptions as well as a hint of glamour as Broadway meets small town.

Dig deeper into the routines. Add in waiters and waitresses scrambling around each other in the kitchen and then rushing to backstage dressing rooms for make-up in time for the curtain to go up. Sore feet and back muscles from carrying loaded trays up and down steps to various tables. Kitchen mishaps, messes, and complaints from diners. Exhausting rehearsals for the music, dancing, and acting of a new show while still performing the current show each weekend.

Now the natural conflicts. Increased stress from trying to juggle multiple tasks and then still remember the lines. Nerves over auditions and waiting for cast lists to be posted. Bad reviews or declining revenue. Diva-sized egos seeking the spotlight and hopeful understudies wondering if they’ll ever be needed. Rubbing shoulders with different personalities backstage and perhaps even as housemates. Can anyone say jealousy or perhaps even sabotage from a rival? (Stay tuned next fall to find out what I included.)

Who else has dug deeper to create a setting that was more than a place? Here are a few that jumped immediately to my mind.

  • Pepper Basham in The Thorn Bearer – Forget the familiar sinking of the Titanic. Instead of an uneventful trip across the Atlantic, she put the characters on the Lusitania in the middle of World War I. How’s that for conflict when an enemy torpedoes your ship?
  • Mary Connealy’s Kincaid Brothers series – That creepy, dark, and dangerous cave definitely became a character in the stories and motivated all sorts of characters to either face or avoid their fears.
  • Susan May Warren’s It Had To Be You (book #2 in the Christiansen family series) – The world of professional hockey brings to mind fast skating, reckless behavior, and fights. But if the enforcer needs to stop fighting, how does that affect the rest of his team?

Now it’s your turn. What other stories can you think of where the setting became more than a place and automatically contributed conflict and tension to the story? On the flip side, how could you naturally inject conflict into a story with a more common setting like a small town diner?

As a special thanks to Seekerville for letting me hang out with you today, I’m giving away an autographed copy of Catch of a Lifetime and an e-book version for someone else. I wouldn’t complain one bit if the rest of you bought your own copy here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1941103944/ 

And in another shameless plug, I’m also in the middle of a week-long launch party on Facebook full of football, faith, fiction, and great prizes. You can join the fun here. https://www.facebook.com/groups/CatchofaLifetime/ In the meantime, I’ve brought easy tailgating breakfast burritos and fruit cups to sustain our chat about setting-driven conflicts.

He breathes football. She shudders at the very mention of the sport. After a tragedy involving a football player destroyed her family, athletic trainer and graduate student Cassie moves across the country looking for a fresh start, but a change in financial aid lands her in the middle of her worst nightmare. Meanwhile, rookie coach Reed worries his dream career will slip away as injuries plague his players and his star receiver teeters on the brink of ineligibility. As the two work together to salvage the season, sparks fly, and Reed must eventually choose between the game he cherishes and the woman he loves.

Candee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

You can connect on her website/blog www.CandeeFick.com, on Twitter  https://twitter.com/CandeeFick and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Author.Candee.Fick


  1. Hi, Candee and welcome to Seekerville. You may have thought the celebration is out of the way, but I think becoming published deserves a party here. I've got coffee, cinnamon rolls, almond Danishes and tea.
    I just finished reading VANDETTA by Lisa Harris, and I've got to say that the National Park became a character to be noticed.
    I'd love to win Catch of a Lifetime! Prefer the paperback, please
    Have a great day!

  2. If a story is set on the' misty moors' I am automatically transported. A great story will make the most of the location.

  3. Hi Candee! Congratulations on the publication of your first book! How exciting! I too just finished reading Vendetta by Lisa Harris and the Smokey Mountain National Park did become a character in the story and helped drive the story forward.

    I would love to win a paperback copy of your book too! thank you for the opportunity.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  4. I love settings. I love creating them and living in them and working in them. Because I do a lot of small-town/rural stories, I like my series towns to come to life. I love it when people try to find Jamison, NY on a map.... or Kirkwood Lake. And my new Grace Haven series in the Finger Lakes is so fun! Hills, vineyards, wineries, and a town which embraces its name in a large way... a true haven and great go-to event and vacation spot.

    Candee you're right, the setting sets tone. In Refuge of the Heart, Lena's tiny, and kind of dark and cold second-floor apartment sets the background for her struggles, and yet you can feel her "see" the light coming. A degree... a job... a safer environment. And she never loses sight of her dream despite the current darkness.

    Those settings immerse the reader into the reality of the story.

    Great post today, thank you so much for being here, and congratulations!!!! So happy for you!

  5. Mary Preston, oh, remember all those gothic romances on the Scottish moors???????

    BE STILL MY HEART!!!!!!!

  6. I really like the idea of the setting becoming a character. I never thought of it that way but you are so right. You have given me a lot to think about. Thanks. I would love to win a copy of your book in either form.

  7. Hi Candee,
    The books I enjoy most are the ones where setting becomes a character -- where it almost couldn't have happened anywhere else. This past year I enjoyed Melody Carlson's "River" series and Eva Marie Everson's "Sunset Key" because both the Pacific Northwest river country and the Florida beach community were places of hope and healing, an organic part of the story.
    Small-town diner? Cathleen Armstrong's Last Chance series has one and it's an integral part of the books. It's the Dip 'N Dine in case you're interested, and the waitress is Juanita.
    Lauraine Snelling's Dakota prairie, especially in the earliest books when they are still carving out a life there.
    I'm trying to do that with my own stuff. Had a built-in "in" with the Oregon Trail, how could that NOT affect the people on it, and I tried to do the same with my follow-up book, taking the settlers through their first Oregon Country winter.
    Not so easy with my other series, New York City after World War I. The focus is a settlement house in Hell's Kitchen. I have never LIVED in New York City and certainly not in 1920, so I did a lot of research for NYC-specific details and filled in with generic city stuff. I go to Boston a lot and if someone shoves you out of the way on the sidewalk it's the same everywhere.
    Thanks for the post.
    Kathy Bailey

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  9. Good Morning Candee. You are the true example of 'write what you know'. I'm excited for you and your first published book. So nice to read about your journey and experiences along the way. Keep the momento going and enjoy the publishing ride. You've earned it. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Good morning, Candee! So happy have you in Seekerville today talking football, settings, and of course, your debut novel! Catch of a Lifetime gave me a tremendous sense of behind-the-scenes college football. You brought the setting alive.

    I'm not a football fan, but Catch of a Lifetime kept me turning the pages and loving every minute of it!!

    Thanks for joining us in Seekerville, Candee!

  11. Hello CANDEE! I LOVE watching Oklahoma play. Catch of a Lifetime sounds interesting.

    Please put me in the draw for your book.

  12. Oh Candee. Sometimes I think you guys get together and write posts just for me. I'm awful at settings.I like to write and then go back and fill in some kind of setting afterward. Not smart, huh? The season, place, and if it dark outside is as I deep as I go.

    You make it sound so easy and important. This is definitely a keeper.

  13. Congratulations on your debut novel, Candee!
    When the setting is it's own character, it always makes for a better reading experience.
    I'm a big fan of football and your book sounds exciting. One of my favorite movies is Rudy.
    Thank you for the great tips!

  14. Hi, Candee!! Congratulations on your first book! It is so great to see you here. This book is the best! I really liked Cassie's character as a tutor. The football was such a part of the story, it didn't take away from it. I could follow what was going on and even enjoyed seeing that side of the game. (Definitely much more interesting than watching it on TV lol.) Baseball I understand. Can't wait to read your next book. Could you give some tips on how to make a setting come alive for a reader? What would be some things I could look for in a fictional small town? I have a lot to learn! Is weather a setting? There will have to be a blizzard lol.

  15. Candee - you know I loved Catch of a Lifetime and I am praying it is very successful, touching many the way it touched me. What you have said about setting is especially true in your book because many of us, whether we like college football or not, have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. What is a meeting room, how do players get tutored, what happens when they go to an away game? What a brilliant way to draw your readers in and make the setting a character in itself.
    I've read this, loved it btw, so don't enter me in the drawing. However - if you don't win Candee's book today, buy it! I promise you will love it. And don't let the football scare you off. It is definitely not for football lovers only! My review is on amazon and goodreads in case you'd like to check it out.
    Congratulations Candee, wishing you all the best.

  16. Good morning, Seekerville! Lunches are packed and the kids are about out the door for school so I'm popping in to say hello and thanks and I can't wait to spend time chatting today.

    Marianne - Thanks for the cinnamon rolls. I needed a little something sweet to go with that new book recommendation.

    Cindy W. - Thanks for the kind words and for dittoing the same book. Just put a star next to the title on my To-Be-Read list.

    Mary (and Ruth) - Those Scottish misty moors certainly set a swoony mood, especially when the hero appears out of the fog and you can almost hear the bagpipes in the distance. Ah. Need to pull a favorite off the keeper shelf to relive that setting. :-)

  17. Eliana and Bettie - Thanks so much for stopping by.

    Ruth - I love it when a setting helps set the tone for the story in addition to pulling the reader into the place so deep they can experience it with all of their virtual senses.

    Kaybee (Kathy) - More great examples of stories to add to my list. And you're right, the bustling of crowds has a similar feel no matter the place or the time period. Of course, the jostling could be fun energy, sinister or cloying if trying to escape a stalker, or downright dangerous when you think of soccer stadium stampedes.

  18. Suzanne - Thanks! I'm trying to keep the momentum going by plotting a new book even if the book launch is messing with any NaNoWriMo attempt.

    Audra - Thanks so much for hosting me today and showing that even non-football lovers can get drawn into a well-crafted setting.

    Caryl - Everyone's got their favorite team to root for. Over at the launch party today, there are a few feisty mascots being discussed.

  19. Good morning Candee Welcome to Seekerville and congratulations on your first book. From the comments it sounds like a winner.

    Setting is my favorite part of a book so really like your points. And I love the point that you have to consider all the possibilities of action in the setting. I learned that in a screenwriting class. Imagine a whole movie in one setting. Boring.

    Thanks for joining us and enjoy your day here.

  20. Candee, congratulations!! What an encouraging journey! I just downloaded Catch of a Lifetime onto my kindle and can't wait to read it!!

    My son is the head football coach at a small rural high school. He took a bunch of boys who hadn't played and now they're a scrappy little team on the way to their division championships!! At the last away game, this team's bleachers had more fans than the home team!! Needless to say our family lives and breathes football!!

    I'm convinced any setting can come alive for readers...but, as you suggested, research and weaving in those special elements is the key to creating setting as a character!

    We don't tailgate at these small-town high school games, we buy food from whatever high school group is doing a fund-raiser that week...so, we might have steak sandwiches, gourmet hamburgers, or loaded baked potatoes...however, all the mommies with little ones always have cheerios or snack crackers or boxed juices...not too exciting for this group!! LOL Guess, I'll bring some homemade healthy cowboy peanut butter cookies!

    Would love to win a hard copy of your new book to give to my sweet daughter-in-law...the BEST wife a football coach could ever have!!

  21. Connie - I struggled with injecting enough conflict into a story and my early attempts tended toward episodic scenes along the way toward a single conflict showdown. When I finally saw the natural conflicts in a setting, the light bulb went on and suddenly I had all sorts of tension oozing into every scene. Dig deeper and see what surprises you find.

    Jill - I LOVED the movie Rudy and actually played the soundtrack when writing many of the football action scenes in Catch of a Lifetime. Saturday night I saw a new football movie, Woodlawn, with the same actor playing a chaplain in a true story about a high school in Birmingham in the 1970s.

  22. Marsha - Thanks for the plug for the book!

    Cindy - Thanks for the amazing review. It makes me grin knowing others loved this story as much as I did.

    Sally - I love watching football in person more than on TV because I can people watch and hear the band rather than only see what the cameras show or only hear the commentators ... unless it's a blizzard and then my warm couch is perfect! That and there's no line for the bathroom and the kitchen doesn't charge $5 for a Diet Coke.

  23. Let's brainstorm Sally's question about things to look for in a fictional small town and tips to make the setting come alive.

    First off, weather can be a part of the setting that sets the mood of a scene on a dreary, rainy day or a bright, spring morning with a gentle breeze. A blizzard could be an antagonist of sorts keeping the characters from reaching their goal. An approaching storm (thinking of a hurricane) also serves as a ticking time bomb of increasing pressure as they have to get certain things done before it hits land.

    Small towns make me think of storefronts along main street, flowers in planters, old-timers dissecting politics on a bench outside the bank. Speaking of politics, there could be a touch of nepotism if the mayor's son is also the police chief. What about a fear of change because we've always done things a certain way so the older generation fights the younger push toward technology.

    A small town could either be dying with the youth moving away in pursuit of opportunities or a certain industry leaving the area. OR a small town could be a tourist destination with oodles of strangers coming into town and messing things up. Perhaps even a sense of insiders versus outsiders, making a new transplant to town feel like she doesn't belong in either group.

    What else?

  24. Hi Candee, and congratulations!

    I love when authors can bring their setting into the story like another character. Without the setting, the story could take place anywhere - even in an empty room. But when you take weather, landscape, other people, and other events and weave them into the story, then it becomes real.

    BTW - I'm a football lover - as long as the Denver Broncos are playing :)

  25. Candee,
    I'll give it a try. The story I'm working on now have a couple of chapters that I'm not happy with. Like you said, everything is building to the end, but it's like I'm just trying to get there. Not enjoyable writing or reading.

    Great advice.

  26. Sandra - I love how your screenwriting tip reinforces the idea of creating interesting, not-boring stories by making sure there's a variety of places for the action.

    Kathryn - Thanks for the download this morning! Small town high school football is certainly a unique setting when the entire population shows up for a game. I've heard stories of my attending my first football game at five months ... and have carted baggies of cheerios into the stands for my three kiddos. Being a coach's wife is not easy, especially if the team loses. Then again, once you start winning, people expect you to do it again and that's a different kind of pressure.

  27. Candee, this is fabulous! As much of a plotter as I am with the overall story, your post made me realize I'm a total pantser on the settings in my stories. As I begin to prepare for my next WIP, I'm definitely keeping this post in mind. It's a cut, paste and print one for me, Candee!

    AND a HUGE congratulations on your new release, and your upcoming release! Way to go!

  28. Jan - I've read books where the scene could have been taking place almost anywhere and I had no sense of the place. Never want my readers to feel that way!

    And Go Broncos! Glad to see we finally found some offense.

  29. Jeanne - Plotting a story involves so many moving pieces that it's easy to forget one. You made me smile to think of my words in your cut/paste/print pile. I have a stack that I need to re-read and then organize. And thanks for the cheers. It's been quite a journey!

  30. Taking a break from my daily writing on my Nano wip, your post was a refreshing breath of air, Candee. You really gave me some ideas to work into my own story. Your novel sounds very interesting. Thanks for being here!

  31. Christina, kudos for working on a NaNo WIP and I'm glad you got a few new ideas to up that word count. I wish I was working on NaNo instead of focused on marketing, but I did wake up with a scene in my head so I'd better get that written down before it vanishes. Best wishes as you conquer the NaNo story mountain!

  32. Candee, congratulations on publishing your first book!! I wish you all the best.

  33. Candee,

    So proud of your accomplishments! I've been following you on FB and have been cheering you on from the sidelines, so to speak. Congrats on your release. The book looks fantastic, and I love your discussion today about settings. You know football, and that passion you have for the game and the setting is evident in your blog. I know it makes your story come alive, as well.

    BTW, I'm an Ohio State grad so, of course, I love football. Never missed a home game in five seasons! Love to watch the Buckeyes play...and yes, we're still #1!!! :)

    Bet your football coach hubby is proud of you. The kids too. Isn't it fun to have a subject matter expert or two or three close by!

    Thanks for being with us today!

  34. Thanks Candee for this lovely post and great examples. I'm a reader, and I've always been so impressed by authors that are able to bring the setting of their stories to life! For me, one thing about historical fiction is the detailed accounts of how a place is allows my mind to dream and be there too. With contemporary fiction, it's easier to imagine but even better when I can visually see what's happening. Thank you. =)

  35. Thanks for bringing the setting alive. Your book sounds fabulous! My daughter goes to Colorado State, Fort Collins and loves it! It's her first year and I miss her terribly, but glad she is happy. Hears to your future success.

  36. Candee, congratulations on the book. It looks good. Please enter me in the drawing.

    The book I am writing takes place in Nebraska (where I live) during a tornado. In this case the setting is definitely like a character in the story.

  37. Candee, great to have you back in Seekerville and with such great news. Congrats on your debut and contract for another novel.

    Love the conflict you set up between the hero and heroine. Sounds like a terrific read! As a football coach's wife, you probably live and breathe the game. Better yet, you have a resource under your roof. :-)

    Tells us a bit about the next book.


  38. Barbara - Thanks! You can thank our friend Sandie Bricker for the open door.

    Debby - So glad to know there are other rabid, er, faithful football fans out there! And researching close to home made parts of the book very easy to write. In fact, in edits I had to cut football stuff out because there was so much of it.

    Just Commonly - It's readers like you who make the effort of writing well so worth it. I love it when a story comes to life in my imagination.

  39. Jeri - Thanks! CSU was my original inspiration for the setting and then I took it fictional.

    Sandy - A tornado in Nebraska sounds like a perfect character to stir up trouble. :-)

  40. Janet - Had to slip out to comment on ugly football uniforms over at the launch party. This football theme has been fun since I live with the game year-round. However, I'm super excited about the next book since I get to spend time with musicals and singing and dancing.

    Dance Over Me is a romance and adoption reunion story set in a dinner theater. It's scheduled to release next September Here's the rough blurb:

    Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage, but a jealous cast member and numerous fruitless leads threaten to drop the curtain on her dreams and shine a spotlight on her longing for a place to belong. Meanwhile, Alex Sheridan is living his dream except for someone to share it with. When Dani dances into his life, he hopes he’s found the missing piece to his heart but fears the bright lights of the stage could steal her away.

    Will the rhythm of dancing feet usher in their deepest desires or leave them stranded in the wings?

  41. Thanks, Candee, for your comments. I have an English teacher who has moved back to town only people don't know he's originally from there. He left right after high school graduation and it's been a few years and he's hoping when the woman he left behind realizes it's him she'll be happy to see him. He is directing the English departments drama team to put on a play or something right before Christmas. The heroine is working two jobs to make ends meet. (And there is backstory and a past to them and something that happened that he doesn't know about yet.) How do I get her to help him with the play? I can't make a connection.

    I can't watch a football game, per my husband, because I get confused on who to cheer for and end up cheering or groaning for the team that has the ball and that gets me looked at funny lol. I understand baseball. Why do football players have different people playing offense and defense? It's the same people for baseball. Why are they switched in football? Makes no sense. And the ball- I can never find it.

    Candee, it is so great having you here today!

  42. Candee, thanks for sharing the blurb of next book. Dance over Me sounds like a great read! Both of your books' settings are unique. Were you or family members part of the stage or dancers?


  43. Welcome, Candee! Great tips about enhancing our stories with setting details! I have both read and written books where setting didn't matter much and the story might have taken place anywhere. But I agree that stories are much more interesting and compelling when setting goes hand-in-hand with plot development. The series I'm working on now takes place in Depression-Era Arkansas, so the setting has a strong impact on the characters and conflict.

  44. Sally, not knowing what jobs she is working makes it a little harder to picture. But if one of them needed her to deliver something to the auditorium (i.e. paint, lumber, fabric, food, a large package, a box of programs, etc.), then she could see he needs help and volunteer. Or she "helpfully" could point out a problem while there and the frazzled director could snap at her and challenge her to fix it herself if she's so smart. Or maybe her boss (on whom she depends for a job) gets hurt/ill/has to travel and can't be the backstage manager anymore, therefore volunteering her for the task in his/her place and she can't say no without risking her job.

    Better yet, all three! If she's out-of-sorts because she has to do this favor for her boss and deliver something to the high school (and might therefore be late to her other job or home/family), then she'd arrive at the auditorium in a mood, say something critical, and get herself backed into a corner with a challenge. Does that spark any ideas for you?

    As for the game of football, check out this video I made explaining football from a woman's perspective. It might help. https://youtu.be/CVrzXdYv520

  45. Janet - I've been in Passion plays and love going to the dinner theater, but this new story took more intentional research to fill in the gaps. I did dance on an Israeli folk dance team in high school, but always wished I was coordinated enough to tap out a rhythm.

    Myra - I think the historical era is as much as part of setting as the physical location. The Depression certainly came with natural conflicts and tension circling around financial fears and needing to survive hard times.

  46. What a great post, Candee! Just reading it got my mind to ticking on how to expand my setting. Thanks for the great ideas!

  47. Marsha B, thanks for sharing! It sounds like a great story.

  48. Kathryn, that's so exciting about your son and his team!!

  49. hi Candee - Huge congrats on your book debut!!!
    I'm always a sucker for mountain settings or Colorado settings because I was born there (currently transplanted on East Coast, but hoping to return home someday soon. I also happen to love football (grew up with brothers and a neighborhood full of boys... had to keep up or be left behind).

    I love how you've presented the idea of the setting having the possibility of being a secondary character. I've heard that before, but it's cool to hear it in a different way. I'd probably integrate an old dive boat and the inherent maintenance issues it may have into my ocean based story. The sea life with my diver characters would definitely provide something else too.

    Enjoyed this post! Looking forward to reading comments later... would love to be in the draw for your book. Thanks for sharing with us, Candee.

  50. Wow Candee, this is a cool and difficult setting. To learn all the ins and outs of college football and college life. Great premise and CONGRATULATIONS on the book and the new contract!!!!!!!!!!

  51. I'm trying to think of a book where the setting becomes a character in it's own right.
    Have any of you ever read Nevada Barr's Anna Pidgeon books? She's a national park ranger who keeps finding dead bodies. (for like....16 books now) and each book is set in a different national park and Barr really brings those parks to life. She set them in really famous parks like Carlsbad Cavern and Yosemite and The Statue of Liberty (did you know that's a national park?).
    And very obscure ones like Dry Tortuga (I won't explain). So she works off the known and the unknown in very cool ways. And the beauty and challenge and danger of all those wild lands (not counting Lady Liberty as wild I guess!) really bring their own features to life.

  52. How about Rebecca where that spooky house was such a character?

  53. Missy - Glad I could spark some ideas today!

    Deb H - I live by the mountains so traveling to the ocean sounds fun. And I agree that mechanical trouble with an old boat while fighting the tides, a shark, or a swarm of jellyfish would fit right in.

    Mary - Thanks so much for the cheers and the recommendation of more books to read.

    But have you ever read one where the author tried TOO hard to show off the setting and it felt like a tour guide pointing out the local attractions? And on your left in chapter three is the local café where Famous-So-and-So ate breakfast once and in chapter seven let's detour out of town so I can show you the spot where local legend says ... (Insert eye roll.) That's why I try to find a NATURAL way to weave in the setting.

  54. Candee, I'd love to know what her jobs are too! Complete panster here lol. But sparks are flying all over the place. Thank you for your suggestions and they play off each other nicely. I can already hear what he says to her and what she says back and how she ends up being there but then later wondering how it happened. Thank you!

  55. Candee, Thank you for your post and congratulations on becoming a published author. The moors in both The Hound of the Baskervilles and Wuthering Heights made the books more vivid and alive for me. And Mary's earlier comment about Manderley-oh, the very line where the second Mrs. de Winter starts her narration with "Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again" is an absolute favorite of mine.

    (I hope you don't mind my commenting on the biography part of your post, but last year, I found out my daughter has a rare genetic condition no one has ever heard of so I lifted up a prayer for your daughter and your family.)

  56. Sally, you're welcome! I love brainstorming. :-)

    Tanya, it's amazing how a single line from a book can communicate so much and trigger so many memories. That's the power of a great setting. Thanks for the prayer. My newly-adult princess is currently talking my ear off about wanting to play Trouble or Sorry or Uno with me and not understanding I need to keep checking in on the computer. I'll be praying for you and your daughter as well. (Our genetic "blessing" is Cornelia de Lange Syndrome and that part of my journey has definitely shaped me as a person.)

  57. Hi Candee!
    Great debut book with more to come, I'm sure.

    Yes, setting is a blast and it can make a story even change as you're writing it. That happened to me with Viking Gold. I found this remarkable place in Trondheim and the entire book changed. Wow.

    Super post that's a keeper.
    Leslie Ann aka L.A. Sartor

  58. Thank you, Candee! If I get stuck on something else, I may contact you lol. You've given me plenty of fodder for my writing stint this evening. Thank you!

    How old is your daughter with the genetic syndrome? I looked up what it meant because I had no idea what it was and had never heard of it. I will be praying for her and your family. Tanya, I'll be praying for yours as well.

  59. Candee, I have seen stories where there is way too much setting, so I start skipping. Not good!

  60. Late to the party, but I brought tailgate food. Nachos cheese chips with black olives. Am I forgiven??

    Congratulations on your debut and your launch of the Bling! line! Brava!!!

  61. Nachos cheese chips! Yes! Just in time for my writing stint this evening!

    Candee, just wanted to say thank you so much for your thoughts and input. I have a barber shop quartet! and a community program to put on that puts my hero and heroine working together. Thank you! I have shared two first scenes with hero and heroine with my writing critiquer who will let me know what she thinks and these two scenes she loves! I am so glad! I hate that first time putting it out there. Now I can continue with my story.

  62. Candee, LOL absolutely I've read those books.
    It's always a balance.
    I know I have a problem doing to LITTLE scene setting. I have to FORCE myself to draw pictures with words so we'll know where we are!

    The cavern was an exception, I loved to make that cavern by turns stunningly beautiful and terrifying. That was it's purpose. To lure onward and to frighten away, and for each character to react to that in his/her own way.

  63. Leslie, thanks for stopping by! Love it when a setting takes over in a good way.

    Tina, you're forgiven and not just because you brought more food. :-) Thanks!

    Sally, my princess will be 19 next month so it's been quite a journey. Glad to hear your story is moving forward and taking life in your imagination.

  64. Hi Candee, congratulations on your release! I'm reading Vendetta by Lusa Harris and the national park setting plays heavily into the book. Also, Fatal Freeze by Michelle Karl. I can't imagine being stranded on a boat in frozen waters!

  65. Terri, thanks! I'm triple starring Vendetta on my TBR list now ... and shivering at the mere thought of that other setting.

    And Mary, balance is definitely the key as we go back and weave in the elements missing in the first draft. At least at this point in the game we know what those missing things are. I still remember my anemic first manuscript that had too much wrong with it to even know where to start.

  66. Congratulations on your book.! Setting. . I love the ones that take me away to someplace new.
    Becky B.

  67. CANDEE!!! Please forgive me for being so late today ... it's been a blur, but then you already know all about that with your new release. WHICH looks and sounds WONDERFUL!!

    Setting is critical, I'm learning, something I really didn't fully appreciate in my first two series in Boston. Reading about the way you dug down deep into football for your new book really inspires me to dig deeper into my own settings. I feel like I did that with my San Francisco series, but then my editor grew up in San Fran, so I had extra motivation there. :) And my delving was more about historical setting than activities like you did with football or your other excellent example of a dinner theater.

    You asked: "What other stories can you think of where the setting became more than a place and automatically contributed conflict and tension to the story?

    Well, the first book that comes to mind for me is Gone With the Wind because there's sooooo much there to dig into, from the charm and mores of the South, to the tension and conflict of the Civil War.

    When it comes to superb setting, I always think of Laura Frantz and Liz Curtis Higgs because both of them seem to create settings that are rich and real and so very complex that they almost becomes like another character.

    You also asked: "On the flip side, how could you naturally inject conflict into a story with a more common setting like a small town diner?"

    Ahhhh ... now your talkin' my language here, because novels that are primarily character-driven, meaning they could take place anywhere, are what I am most comfortable with writing myself. In my O'Connor saga, the O'Connor home was my main setting where all kinds of conflict took place between some pretty colorful personalities. The personalities themselves became the setting of "home" for me, not the Southie three-decker house they lived in in Southern Boston. Even so, my hubby always tells me that he loved the different settings in APMP -- Boston, Dublin -- in addition to the natural conflict of a war and wishes I would incorporate more of that in my books. :)

    VERY intriguing post today, Candee, so thanks for a great blog. I wish you the very best with your book, my friend -- it looks and sounds like a winner.


  68. Becky B. - I love books that take me away to somewhere new. Kinda like that old Calgon commercial.

    Julie - Better late than never. ;-) And I totally get the crazy blur of a day. Congrats on hitting #1 so quickly with your new release. As for the topic today, Gone With the Wind was a great example of natural conflicts with a war, hardship, and fitting into a Southern society mold of expectations.

    Thanks everyone for a wonderful day here at Seekerville! I'm taking my blurry eyes off to bed to regroup before another busy launch-week day tomorrow. :-)

  69. Candee,

    Congratulations on your new book and contract! Your new book sounds great and I love the way you found so many different settings and conflicts within the overall picture.

    Please put my name in for the drawing!

  70. Congratulations, Candee! I love the information on setting! Will definitely save this one. All the best to you.
    Cinnamon buns and hot coffee! Yes!