W. S. Gager's Take on Setting as Character




            Can setting really be a character in a book? A year ago I would have said no, at least not in my books. I’m a minimalist when it comes to setting. You won’t find long paragraphs of description or colorful prose. I try to layer elements of setting among dialogue and action scenes. My goal, if successful, is to have a line or two or description and then the reader’s imagination fills in the blanks. That’s what I want to happen because when I’m reading I skip long passages of description. With such small bits and pieces of places, how could a setting take on a bigger role?

You create a town that is out to get you main character. In doing so, I’ve had to revise my view on setting a bit. In A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES the town itself rose from the pages and seemed to be attacking my sleuth, Mitch Malone, at every turn.

To understand this, I need to give you a bit of the plot. Mitch is forced to return to his hometown to teach a seminar then stumbles into the local watering hole and into his class reunion in full swing. Problems start when the former Homecoming queen takes a shine to the crime beat reporter and Mitch, with a chip the size of the town on his shoulder, rubs it in his bully cousin’s face that he lost the beauty and she now prefers the man with the famous byline. The queen is found dead the next morning and his cousin’s best friend is now the police chief who wants to throw Mitch in jail.

The town dredges up memories of the reporter’s past that he had buried long ago including the death of a childhood friend and his parents. As he walks down Main Street he feels all eyes on him and he can still name all the establishments from his youth including the Malone Hardware store that his uncle owns. As he tries to clear his name, the town begins to close in on him. People come to his aid without asking and he doesn’t know how to handle it. He wants to run back to the city but can’t go without the story and pending charges. As Mitch faces the bullies that made his life miserable as a child, he realizes the adults are much different and this murder is no childish prank and his name is next on the list.
           
Okay, that was a long synopsis but Mitch doesn’t know how to accept the kindness of his classmates or former neighbors. He knows he must visit where the beauty’s body was found but the local park carries memories he’s buried deep, or so he thought. The good ones where he played cops and robbers and the bad where his best friend leaped off an embankment into the river on a dare and Mitch’s CPR wasn’t good enough to save him. For the reader to understand Mitch’s anguish, the trees need to come alive and reach out to grab him figuratively as he struggles against the demons he has tried to forget.
           
While writing A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES, the struggle to add the description warred with my minimalistic attitude. I went through and added and deleted several times trying to make the descriptions seamless as if I was describing someone’s hair and eye color. Did I succeed? Jury’s still out. What do you think about setting? Can it hijack a book?

FACT SHEET

A Case of Hometown Blues

By W.S. Gager



“A Case of Hometown Blues” Synopsis

When Pulitzer-winning reporter Mitch Malone's editor presses him for a favor, Malone breaks his vow to never return to his hometown. It seemed simple enough--lead a seminar for Flatville, MI's newspaper, keep a low profile and get back to the city post haste. But memories of his parents' death swarm him, and, to avoid solitude, he stops for a beer. In the crowded bar, Mitch is dismayed to see many of his former classmates--including the still-lovely Homecoming Queen, Trudy. Once the object of his teenage crush, Trudy joins Mitch. He quickly realizes she is upset and inebriated. Always the gentleman, Mitch sees her safely home, and returns to his B&B, still trying to shake memories of his parents' sad demise. The next day, he is stunned to learn Trudy was murdered and he is the prime suspect. The locals treat the murder charge as a slam dunk, and Mitch realizes he must track down the real killer to keep his butt out of jail. As he investigates, facts he thought he knew about his family unravel, and danger ratchets up. Can Mitch discover the truth that will allow his parents to rest in peace, or will he be resting with them?

Author Bio
W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him, supposedly.

Reviews

"A Case of Hometown Blues" by Jackson author W.S. Gager (Oak Tree Press, $14.95) is the third in her series about Mitch Malone, who was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize Investigative Journalism Award. This oversized paperback is set in the small fictional town of Flatville, Mich., where Malone grew up. He's returned to give a seminar on investigative journalist techniques.The seminar is the same weekend as Malone's high school reunion, but he really doesn't want to participate. A classmate's body is found and Malone becomes the prime suspect.While Gager's highly entertaining tale wraps up a little too neatly, it's still solid escapism by a promising new talent.

Ray Walsh

owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop,

has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers since 1987.

In A Case of Hometown Blues by W.S. Gager, Mitch Malone is forced to return to his hometown of Flatville to conduct seminars for a sister newspaper’s staff regarding finding big stories and working sources. This is the last place Mitch wants to visit; it holds too many memories, and they aren’t things he wants to dwell on--ever. Unfortunately for him, sometimes life forces us to look back and face the past. Coming up against resentment from the local reporters, he accepts a challenge to find a big story in this small town. It turns out to be a life-changing challenge he’ll never forget.

When an old high school classmate is murdered, Mitch becomes a murder suspect and he begins to learn that this sleepy little town holds some surprisingly huge secrets. He has to put all of his expertise as a big city reporter to the test while setting aside his personal feelings about the people who reside in Flatville. W.S. Gager has created some twists and turns in this story that kept me glued to each page. I don’t want to give away any of the secrets, so let me just say that this is a “must read” book. I recommend adding it to your library at the first opportunity.

--Marja McGraw

Author of Bogey Nights and Sandi Webster Mysteries

A Case of Hometown Blues finally explains why you can’t go home again - It could get you killed. In this third installment of the Mitch Malone series, Malone doesn’t actually get killed, but it isn’t for lack of people trying. Mitch returns to his home town just in time for the class reunion from hell. The reasons he left never to return bubble up from his memory along with corpses both old and new. Our intrepid reporter has to confront a death he had buried in his subconscious, prove he didn’t commit the current murder he is charged with, and reconstruct a personal and town history worthy of a Tennessee Williams story.  A Case of Hometown Blues is fast-paced and full of surprises as Malone ties to unravel the sordid past of Flatville before he becomes unwound himself.



J. Michael Orenduff

Author of “The Pot Thief” Series & Winner of the Lefty and EPIC awards



Contact Information                                 Available At

                                                                   www.oaktreebooks.com

E-mail: wsgager@yahoo.com                       www.amazon.com

Website: www.wsgager.com                         www.barnesandnoble.com

Facebook keyword: wsgager                        Robbins’ Booklist, Greenville

ISBN:  978-1-61009-017-9                         Country Squire Pharmacy, Fremont

Barnes & Noble, Norton Shores &

    Grand Rapids area stores

Schuyler’s Books, Grand Rapids






FACT SHEET

A Case of Accidental Intersection

By W.S. Gager



 “A Case of Accidental Intersection” Synopsis



Mitch Malone hates hospitals, but when a suspicious traffic accident lands a comatose victim in the hospital, he must put that aside to find the truth. The surface looks smooth but the more the crime beat reporter looks the more bodies pop up, including a private detective and his own editor.  Can he get to the truth before the surviving victim is murdered in her hospital bed and an elderly witness has a heart attack? Will he get his exclusive printed before he's the next victim?



Reviews



“W.S. Gager has a winner with the second in the Mitch Malone series. Full of well-written twists and turns, and a double shot of suspense. Gager’s experience as a reporter shines through every page as she weaves a compelling murder mystery. A smart and entertaining jewel of a novel.”

--Holli Castillo, Author of Gumbo Justice



Awards

First Place - Public Safety Writers Association Writing Contest – 2010



Author Bio
W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him, supposedly.


Contact Information                                 Available At

                                                                   www.oaktreebooks.com

E-mail: wsgager@yahoo.com                       www.amazon.com

Website: www.wsgager.com                         www.barnesandnoble.com

Facebook keyword: wsgager                        Robbins’ Booklist, Greenville

ISBN:  978-1-892343-70-3                         Country Squire Pharmacy, Fremont

Barnes & Noble

Schuyler’s Books, Grand Rapids


FACT SHEET

A Case of Infatuation

By W.S. Gager



A Case of Infatuation Synopsis

Crime Beat Reporter Mitch Malone's rules are simple: He never lets the blood and guts he covers bother him. He always works alone. And he hates kids.
Mitch breaks all three rules when he unwittingly agrees to smuggle a potential witness out of a suburban Michigan home while police investigate a mob-style hit that's left two dead bodies. Mitch sends his intern (a real hottie, but nonetheless an interloper) to interview neighbors, hoping to throw her off, but when he finds the pint-sized survivor the killer overlooked, he decides she might be helpful. When the FBI accuses him of the murder, Mitch goes into hiding with the bombshell intern who doesn't talk and the precocious preschooler. Mitch works his contacts to regain his freedom from his roommates only to find they each hold keys to a bizarre story of disappearances, terrorists and the perfect hamburger recipe.

Review

 
“Great combination of gritty prose and sparkling dialogue along with a most intriguing and unusual plot makes W. S. Gager's debut crime novel a true page-turner. Highly recommended!”

F. M. Meredith, author of No Sanctuary

Awards-

First place in the Dark Oak Mystery Contest

Second Place - Public Safety Writers Association Writing Contest – Published, Fiction-Judges Comments – 2010



“A Case of Infatuation was refreshingly fun, yet still suspenseful. I absolutely loved the main character, newspaper reporter Mitch Malone. The writer did such a good job of making him a likable guy, despite his quirks, that I was in his corner, and by the end of the novel, wanted to read more. “

“The plot moves along at a good pace, revealing just enough details and facts to keep you from putting the book down. The writer has a unique writing style, reminiscent of the Hollywood film noir of the 40's and 50's in keeping with the plot and characters, and kept me entertained and reading along until the very end.”

“This is an excellent first novel by W.S. Gager, and I can't wait to see what crazy antics and trouble Mitch gets himself into in the next one.”



ISBN:  978-1-892343-58-1



Comments

Mike Orenduff said…
Great post, Wendy. I thought Mitch was a great character in the first book, and he has grown in each one since. And his home town certainly has something to do with that in the latest episode. We see aspects of his past and personality that could not be revealed had he not "gone home." Keep up this great series.
WS Gager said…
Mike: Thank you so much. Those words mean a lot coming from the master of setting. I so want to visit Hubie's world in Albuquerque.

Marilyn: You really know how to pack a lot into a blog! Thanks for inviting me onto this great blog trip. You're the best!
Wendy
W.S. Gager on Writing
Anne K. Albert said…
I think scenery (as Tim discussed on Nov. 27) can hijack a story because like you, Wendy, I skip over those bits!

Setting, however, adds to the story. It can inconvenience a character, alter their plans, affect their mood. All increase the conflict, and regardless of genre more conflict is good!
Marja McGraw said…
Wendy, I thought you did a great job of setting in this story, and it only added to the enjoyment. Yes, sometimes setting can take over a story, which can be good or bad, depending on how it's done. You did it right.
Jean Henry Mead said…
Great post, Wendy. It reminds me of Elmore Leonard's writing rules:

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

10. Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.

I couldn't agree more.
WS Gager said…
Anne: We all strive for the perfect balance which is never easy. Thanks for stopping by.

Marja: Thank you for those words of praise. They mean so much!

Jean: I've never read Elmore's writing rules. I will have to check them out.
J Q Rose said…
I agree with you, Wendy, on too much detail slows down the story/suspense, but setting is so necessary for the action to take place and, in your great mystery, to understand Mitch. Love Mitch's stories. Keep them coming!
Anne: Great post. And isn't it interesting -- even if the writer doesn't "do" setting very much -- how many crime series fall on their butts when the writer takes the hero out of his/her "natural" environment?

I'm thinking of a couple of disastrous Spenser books, but I also think Michael Connelly came a cropper when he took Harry to Hong Kong -- and there are many more.
Tess Grant said…
Great post, Wendy. I like enough details about scenery to put the story in place in my head and I like enough setting to let me feel the atmosphere. It's a fine line. Too little and the reader feels out of place. Too much and the reader feels smothered.

Thanks for the thoughts.
WS Gager said…
JQ: Thanks for stopping by. You should see about guesting on Marilyn's site when the tour is over. She would love Sunset Boulevard set in a Florida retirement community. You talk about a rich setting...
Wendy
WS Gager said…
Tim: It is so true about series when removed from the original setting. Thanks for the comment.
Wendy
WS Gager said…
Tess: Well said. Thanks for stopping by.
Wendy
As Wendy suggested, J. Q., I'd love to have you guest on my blog. Just send me an email at mmeredith@ocsnet.net
Jackie King said…
Excellent post, Wendy.
Alice Duncan said…
Fascinating post, Wendy! I agree that setting can be a character, and it sounds as if you've used your setting to good advantage.
M.M. Gornell said…
Very thoughtful post, Wendy. i think Anne hit the nail on the head about setting. Our tour posts, and author comments are so interesting...

Madeline
WS Gager said…
Marilyn: Thanks. JQ would be a gone one. She is in my critique group when not enjoying the sunshine in Florida!

Jackie & Alice: Thanks for the compliment!

Madeline: I agree. The comments have been great as well as all the posts.

Wendy
W.S. Gager on Writing
john M. Daniel said…
Fine post, Wendy. It's true that long detailed descriptions of scenery can be shortened or cut; but it's also true that place has a past, and the past can haunt the characters. That's why Mitch has every reason to be on edge in his old home town.
WS Gager said…
Thanks John! Mitch is haunted.
Wendy
jenny milchman said…
I love it when the setting is a character without too much detail bogging things down. The setting speaks through the characters almost--it's a part of who they are.
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