Choosing Settings for Your Writing by Christa Carmen

Choosing Settings for Your Writing by Christa Carmen


Think of the last place you visited that really stuck out to you. What was it about the locale that made you connect to the experience? What details of the place did you retain and recall at later, unexpected moments, bridging the gap between the past and the present? These are the kinds of questions I like to ask myself when deciding on a setting for a story, if that setting has not already announced its presence like a bull before a matador (and usually equally in need of at least a little taming).

I’m not a writer (or a reader) who considers the “write what you know” rule a prerequisite for successful storytelling. Much like the Alcoholics Anonymous strategy of “fake it ‘til you make it,” if you’re dedicated to an idea, you can write your way in the direction you want to travel (you can also write yourself into a corner, but that’s a guest blog post for another day). Where the “fake it ‘til you make it” mantra can drop you in a canyon, without rope or a helicopter pickup time, is in terms of setting. Unless you are either extremely determined or extremely careful, faking your knowledge of a particular setting can be a disastrous move from which there’s no coming back.

Imagine you’ve just picked up a book entitled, Little Rhody: A State Divided. The book claims to examine the rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees from the perspective of those poor souls living in the biggest little state in the union, and who resent the heated fights that break out in bars and stores selling pro-shop memorabilia alike at the peak of playoff season.

The opening lines of the book read as follows: “Every October, the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations becomes akin to the state of the country at the height of the Civil War. Tension builds as thick as New England clam chowder, tempers flare like a Masshole’s road rage, and the longstanding rivalry between Red Sox Nation and the Bronx Bombers is played out on supposed neutral ground, destined to be stained either red with Sox’ blood or navy blue with Yank’s tears come season end.”

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Short Story Showcase

Four Souls Of Eve

On All Hallows’ Eve, the door between the physical and spiritual worlds dissolves, and the past quite literally returns to haunt Eve.

Before this Halloween is over, she’ll wish that door had stayed shut, and the ghosts of boyfriends past had stayed dead and buried.

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