Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Is For August

Jennifer talks about time of year as setting…

The setting of a story is as important as the characters. It’s what grounds the reader in time and place and provides a point of reference, especially in romances. Historical romance needs to portray accurate settings for the time period—everything from a regency ballroom to a Victorian mansion—and if they show anything that doesn’t fit with the time period, readers are the first to point it out.

Setting adds to and takes away from the story. Even in a contemporary romance, the details must be accurate. Winter on a farm is going to be different from fall in a small town. The US has a different feel from Europe.

Even something as simple as summer can demonstrate differences in location. Summer in a small town means fireflies and swimming in creeks or lakes or even at the beach. In a large city, though, you need to demonstrate the intensity of the heat reflecting off the cement, the heaviness of the air when mixed with the exhaust fumes of the taxicabs.

In my book, A Heart of Little Faith, a good part of the story takes place in August in New York city. The heat and humidity on the street contrasts with the cool blasts of air from the air conditioned buildings. The bright sunlight contrasts with the cool darkness inside. The heat brings on crankiness and requires extra planning when the characters are getting dressed.

In this scene, the hero and heroine, Gideon and Lily, are at a wedding of friends. The setting, including the temperature around them and the time of year, provide a backdrop to what is going on between the two characters:

Gideon stole a look at Lily. He studied her as she focused on the service. Her green eyes, emphasized by the green of her dress, sparked. They reminded him of sea glass. Her skin glistened and his hand moved on its own accord to rub her back, exposed by her backless dress. Would her skin feel as soft as it looked? It did, and he ran his hand up and down her spine. Her mouth curved in a small smile of bliss and he would have sworn she shivered, but whether it was from his touch or the slight chill in the church, he couldn’t say for certain. She leaned into his arm though, and he kept his hand on her back as he returned his attention to the front of the church.
When the mass and the ceremony ended, they went outside to await the bride and groom’s exit. After the dim light of the church, the bright sunlight blinded them momentarily and Lily groped for Gideon’s shoulder. He paused to assist her as the heat from the hot summer day hit him in the face. One of the attendants gave them each a bottle of bubbles and a moment later, the newly married couple emerged to a shower of bubbles and rose petals. Tony followed them out and stopped briefly to chat with Gideon and Lily.

What elements play into your settings and flesh them out?


  1. I think you nailed the contrast between the air conditioned space and the outdoors, Jen.
    I'm writing a scene in a hospital right now. Just finished one in a prison. Two very different settings.
    Weather, color of walls, background sounds and smells, backdrop people, time of day.

    1. Yes, Ana, they all have very distinct flavors. Distinguishing them is what makes the reader believe.

  2. In my Irish stories, the rain plays a big part. I can't ignore the statistics which show that there is rain in the west of Ireland on over 200 days in every year.

    1. Exactly. And rain can add to sensory imagery and even behavior of your characters!

  3. Setting, including time of year, plays a huge part in a story. It becomes almost like a character. It can set the mood or echo and reflect the emotions and tensions of the characters.

  4. My WIP is set over the New Year in Yorkshire...so the weather and cold does play a part