Thursday, March 24, 2011

Setting Inspiration

Current Project: The Perfect Beau
Status: Pre-Writing, Worldbuilding

I spotted this shallow cave at Young’s Falls in Oregon and just had to put it in my story!

Deb’s post earlier this week about travel and setting got me thinking about what inspired me to choose certain settings for my stories. I realized that each story had different setting inspirations. In the first, setting was almost another character.

That book is set in small-town Iowa. I had lived in Iowa for nearly twenty years when I began Love Unleashed. The setting was as familiar as my own back yard. I love Iowa, Iowans, and small towns. I modeled my fictional town after the real towns of Independence and Mount Vernon, but it ‘feels’ like Mount Vernon, a quintessential Iowa college/farm town of about four thousand souls. Some scenes take place in Iowa City, which really exists. In this story, the setting is almost a character in itself.

The sequel to that story, which I’ve planned in detail, has the same small town as the starting point for a road trip to Portland, Oregon, where a daughter searches for the truth about her father’s disappearance. I still lived in Iowa. Why Oregon? Because my mom lives in Bend, Oregon, and I figured I could deduct a trip out on my taxes. And Oregon was a land far, far away, which forced my characters to spend several days together cooped up in a truck with the hero’s mother and her dog.

My next story, an unrelated paranormal romance with a suspense plot, is set on a fictional dormant volcano in southeast Washington State. I began this story after my husband was unexpectedly transferred to Portland. (Life, thy name is Irony!) I prefer to use settings I have actually visited. Since I wanted to try my hand at a chase-through-the-wilderness plot, I needed a remote location, surrounded by wilderness, but a short helicopter flight from a major city for my drug lord’s compound. Mount Saint Helens inspired my fictional Mount Astor. The Lava Cast Forest on Mount Saint Helens’ flank inspired the lava casts in my story. The tiny, remote town of Puma on Mount Astor was modeled after the real town of Cougar on Mount Saint Helens.

Currently, I’m worldbuilding a Steampunk YA set in 1870s Portland. This story is way out of my comfort zone, setting-wise, because so much about the city now has changed from the Victorian Era. I’m taking MWVRWA’s online Worldbuilding class taught by Rebecca Lynne, and it’s a lifeline I really need!

How did you choose the setting for your current WIP?


Genene Valleau said...

Sarah, my apologies! I'm not sure how I totally missed your post until today. Gah!

What an interesting photo! No wonder you felt compelled to put it in your story.

I didn't actually choose the setting for my current series--it chose me! I mentioned this little town briefly in a previous story and the characters insisted they have their own stories.

Paty Jager said...

Great post, Sarah! And your books all sound interesting!

The setting for my current book is factual. I'm writing about the U.S. Military chasing the Nez Perce Indians from NE Oregon across Idaho and Montana into Yellow Stone and up through Montana. I've been using the military and Indian recollections to show the land as they are battling and traveling.

But this book is more about the emotions than the setting. Because they are constantly moving and this country isn't their home and filled with hostile tribes and the army chasing them, the setting plays into the story very little unlike the first boot of the trilogy that had everything to do with setting.

Sarah Raplee said...

Thanks for you comments, Ladies! Isn't this an interesting subject?

Paty, you and I both have chase-through-the-wilderness stories, but the settings and characters are very different.

Genene, don't you just love it when characters 'tell' you things?
Is this an awesome job or what?