Tara Kelly's thoughts on setting

After a year and a half straight of working on my last book (and nothing else), I've finally finished! It has been sent into the world *fingers crossed*. Some people may say...why not take a break? But I'm not one of those people. Nope. I've launched face first into my next story, a very different type of book for me.

I'm in that honeymoon period right now. Every character is fresh and interesting and mysterious. The plot keeps changing by the hour, but I'm along for the ride because a blank slate means no domino effect. Yep, I bet you writers know what I'm talking about.

Still, I couldn't start the book until I visited the setting. I pretty much have to spend time in every place I write about. I need to smell the air, check out the houses, go into the grocery stores, roll in the mud...you get the idea. Setting might seem like a minor thing, but I have to say...I fall head over heels for books/TV shows/movies where setting is a character on its own. Where the town is so vivid and quirky that I dream about going on vacation there. Stars Hollow, anyone?

The setting for my next book is a resort town in coastal Oregon called Emerald Cove (yes, I made it up). Last week I drove out to this middle of nowhere town called Manzanita, stayed in a little house with an ocean view (and really cheap rates I might add--yay for off season), and I took pictures of everything. And I mean everything. Even the produce section in their mini-grocery store. Hell, I got the chip aisle too.

This is a house I'd love to live in. I mean, how adorable is that?

I'm debating between these as inspiration for my MC's house. She lives in a modest house with a cute porch. And it's blue. What do you all think?




The hoppin' town center on a sunny aftermoon.

I mean, who can deny the charm of signs like this?

Your turn. Do you have to visit the setting or are you able to make it all up in your pretty head?


  1. For my first manuscript I wasn't descriptive about setting at all. But I understand how important it is, so I'm trying to work on that more with my second one. It is hard to completely imagine an entire town in my head, so I've been trying to look at pictures of different places for inspiration. If I see a picture of a place I can imagine living there or going there.

    I've always loved driving around in new places and checking everything out, but I don't have time to go very far from home right now. I don't think I could ever use a real place though, because you'd really have to spend a lot of time there in order to get it right.

    PS: I would give anything to live in Stars Hollow!

  2. I'm in the same phase on my new WIP -- everything is so new and fresh and exciting! And I'm just like you about setting -- I need to smell the air and feel the dirt and touch the trees and know the streets. Sounds like a fun research trip! Enjoy the ride :D

  3. I've created fictional communities in my head, but I like the real ones best. I'll be doing a similar visit in the next few weeks to get pictures and atmosphere for my next project!

  4. I'm totally with you about having to go visit the places where a story is set - including all the nooks and crannies!

    But I have to admit that, as a reader, I get bored by setting VERY quickly. I want to meet the characters and get started, setting doesn't do much for me. I often skip right past stuff that feels like "setting." But as a writer I think setting is SO important!

    I also agree with Trish about liking real places the best. When I was writing my Martha's Vineyard books I took a notebook and spent so much time just walking around noticing stuff (which is even more fun when you love the place you're writing about). It's a blast to notice things that go unnoticed during every day life.

    And I love your blue houses! Especially the first one.

  5. First off, CONGRATS on the book going out into the world and fingers crossed for it because you know I love it. Secondly, I am the same way about setting. I love for place to be a character of its own. That's why I really loved (though in some ways it was scary because of the whole, is this really autobiographical factor) setting BALLADS OF SUBURBIA in my home town during the time I grew up there. I got to capture everything. IWBYJR was a made up town and so is my current WIP but they are both set in the rural southern WI, northern IL area that I spent so much time driving around in and exploring in my late teens and early 20s. And I would love love love to go to a place like the town you just visited for research. Maybe I need a story in Oregon too!

  6. House B is my choice. Like you I visited the town, school even neighborhoods and know the exact houses my characters live in. The one thing I learned from the teens reading my first manuscript, especially boys since it is written in the voice of a teenage boy, they get bored when an author spends too much time on setting. And from a boys perspective they don't notice the flowers, but if they walk into a doctor's office and there is a girl sitting in the waiting room they'll notice her or the video game set up in the corner. LOL!!

    Enjoy the honeymoon - don't you wish that period could last forever?

  7. There used to be a seriel on the All New Mickey Mouse Club called Emerald Cove. It was set in a beach town in Florida called... you guessed it! Emerald Cove.

  8. That's a great idea for creating an authentic setting! I love it!!!

    Have fun with your new book! (and good luck on the one sent out!!)

  9. Oh, absolutely house A.

    Manzanita is lovely, but they should rename it Emerald Cove and maybe it won't stay so sleepy.

    The novel I just completed is also set in Oregon and some of the critical scenes take place on the coast. I enjoyed hiking the trails, driving along the coast, and visiting all the spots she does. Such fun research!


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