Sense of Place

Sense of Place is another way of saying Setting, isn't it? Maybe not, maybe it's a bit more.

On a Facebook post--one about the fact that California's gas prices are the highest in the nation, topping even Hawaii, a friend wrote that this was yet another reason she was glad she'd moved out of California.

My response was as a 4th generation Californian and with all nearly all my kids and grandkids in California it wasn't likely that I'd be moving anywhere. (I do have a four grandchildren who live out of state and their spouses, and one great grand.)

Someone wrote back and said I must have a good sense of place--and I'm guessing the person meant when writing about California. I have to say that California is a really big place with a lot of different and unique geography, weather, towns and cities. So far I have stuck to settings in California, because that's what I know best.

My Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is set in a mountain community much like the one I live in though I have changed some things around. I know the area because I've lived here for a long, long time. I also write about the nearby Indian casino and reservation--because I'm familiar with that too--although again, I've made some changes. The next town is Dennison which has a strong resemblance to Porterville--and as Tempe goes farther, the names of the places are the same and truer to the real place. She's traveled to Crescent City (CA), Oxnard, Eagle Rock, and Santa Barbara in different books--all places I've lived or visited.

Rocky Bluff of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series is a made up place that is located on the coast between Santa Barbara and Ventura--not Carpenteria because it's in Ventura County. It is truly fictional. I lived near Ventura in Oxnard for many years and I wanted the small beach town in my series to be like Oxnard once was years ago.I really know what the weather is like along that section of the coast and the flora and fauna and all that goes along with beach living.

When writing about a certain section of any state, even if you've given it a different name it should have enough of a resemblance to that area that those who live there aren't upset by how you've portrayed it. And if you are not changing names and writing about a real place, you need to get it right or you'll hear from your readers.

Yes, I think I do have a real sense of place, especially when it comes to the places in my series.



Lorna Collins - said…
I so agree. our first book (memoir) was about Japan because we'd lived there. Our mysteries are set in Hawaii where we have vacationed for many, many years. The anthology series of which I'm part are set in a fictional small town in the Colorado mountains. We lived in Denver a number of years ago, so I also know that area. And my latest book is set 'next door' to my Dana Point home in Laguna Beach, CA.
Getting the place correct is a vitally important part of helping your readers believe your stories.
I agree that sense of place is very important to a novel. I usually set my books on Long island, where I've lived most of my life. A sense of place is more than one town or village. It includes the geography and the climate, how people earn their living and more
Lorna, it's always easier to write with confidence about a place you know.

And Marilyn L. it is definitely the geography and climate and the type of people who live there.
Cora said…
I agee with the saying that place is another character, so important to the fullness of a novel.

California is great in that it has all types of regions, with any type of landscape and feeling you can find anywhere else in the country. I am not native to California but it's totally home.
Kathy Bennett said…
I write about Los Angeles because my characters are L.A. cops and I was born and raised here.

I'm a very plot and character-driven writer, so I have to work to get the little nuances into my books. Usually through revision.

But Marilyn, you are right; California has it all, surf, mountains, desert, high-rise, low profile, you name it - we've got it!
Cora, yes, setting ia as important as the characters.

Kathy, I grew up in L.A. I wandered all over the hills where the Glendale Freeway now is, traveled all over on the streetcar, had relatives that lived down by the railroad tracks and near Mount Washington, I explored downtown L.A. often by myself. Did all this when I was a kid. Amazing.
Jake said…
Many places we roamed as youngsters are no longer safe for wandering children. Sorry for those who must be more concerned with stranger danger than exploring their environment.

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