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The Importance of Setting in Romance Novels

As you surmised from my last blog entry on re-branding, I’ve learned after writing sixteen books and publishing eight of them, that SETTING is extremely important to every story’s plot, characters, and genre. My brand: suspense/mystery spiked with a romantic relationship, including SETTING as a character and impetus for plot complications.

Come on, this is nothing new! A couple sitting on a sandy beach; a jacuzzi in an opulent hotel bedroom (one king bed in the background), lights down low and champagne at hand. We understand how setting helps push a couple together. But I also add a criminal lurking in the condo behind the beached pair, or maybe he’s hiding on the balcony ready to pounce on the couple when they are least aware.

SETTING MATTERS! (For a definition of setting as a literary device:

Here’s a glimpse into my weird psyche. I’m traveling through the National Parks this fall, enjoying every extraordinary mountain range and pastoral valley. Yet, in my brain pounds the following questions:

-What survivalist lurks in the far reaches of this park? Why is he hiding? Is he a danger to people, animals, and flora?

-What criminals are poaching treasures in the parks and will they be caught?

-Are Park law enforcement agencies confounded by such miscreants; do they have a plan to catch them? Do they carry guns?

-How do I pitch evil elements in the park against the budding romance of two characters?

Soon, I have a hero/heroine conflict complicated by the gorgeous but tricky terrain, main characters dogged by greedy villains in a crowded, tourist-driven environment. Note to the reader: the National Parks are being overrun by tourists, some of them exhibiting deplorable behavior. How the heck do we corral the small group of nasty tourists so we can focus on dangerous criminals?

Enter my hero and heroine, both flawed human beings, as we are, but determined to do their jobs well. In this setting. With villains present. Is my duo up to the task?

My newest setting is Sequoia National Park. I chose this park specifically because King’s Canyon, a section of National Forest close to Sequoia, has a centuries-old stable and cabin matrix, a factor integral to my plot. What’s more, fossils can be found in the Park. I also need the following plants growing around the deciduous forests of Sequoia and King’s Canyon: Douglas fir, oak, pine, hazelnut and beech trees. Yes, clarifying setting is gnats eyebrow stuff!

The best thing about making setting an integral character in my novel? I get to go check out the location twice before I call my story finished. I can’t wait to return to Sequoia and King’s Canyon!

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