poetry and prose about place

writing a novel – selecting a setting #1

with 13 comments


So the poet has decided to write a novel.


Title: unknown

Working Title: unknown

Setting: evolving

Characters: unknown

Plot: unknown


The setting was my first consideration as I started to think about this project.  After all, I am very interested in ideas about ‘place’   …   my blog is about occupying ‘place’ and the concept of the ‘niche’, the perfect space for living.

The books I love to read and re-read have a strong sense of place.  Consider the ‘Martha’s Vineyard Mystery’ series of books by Philip R. Craig.  One of the enjoyable aspects of this series of books is the setting on Martha’s Vineyard.  Book by book, the reader grows to know the various places where the action occurs.  The reader can also follow along on a map.  The island is a perfect place for a story to unfold since there is lots of diversity in the landscape and everyone loves the ocean!

Another series of books I love are the ‘Fran Varady Crime Novels’ by Ann Granger (Headline Book Publishing, London).  The setting for these books is London.  The series unfolds as Fran evolves from being a squatter in a condemmed house, to a respectable tenant in a flat with a small garden.  Place is a strong component of the books and the reader encounters various areas again and again, some dangerous, some spooky, and some as safe as home.

As I try to think of a setting for my book, I am remembering the old saw, ‘write what you know’.  So, there is no question, the setting for my book will be rural New Brunswick.

I want to create a fictional setting within the landscape I know so well.  I also want a setting with some diversity.  I want my readers to enjoy encountering the characters in their spaces in this novel, and perhaps in other books.  I want to include elements of place which can both inspire and invoke memory.

One of the places I want to include in my setting is an old church.  I have written before in my blog about the plight of abandoned churches (see the post ‘sacred spaces’ for September 14, 2011, under

Some of these abandoned churches fall into disrepair and gradually vanish from the landscape…

Some are maintained as historic sites or as useful buildings on private property…

Some are refurbished into homes…

or even businesses…

Don’t you agree, an abandoned church would be an ideal element of the setting for my book?


Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

13 Responses

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  1. I think it’s perfect. The church looks like it’s begging to tell a story.



    November 30, 2012 at 8:59 am

    • Hi Robin. I’m glad you agree. Hopefully I can coax some of those stories out! Jane


      jane tims

      December 1, 2012 at 9:17 am

  2. Jane, I love reading about your thought processes as you embark on this new journey. I wouldn’t have thought of the location first, I don’t think. Or maybe I would and the location would be instinctive on my part as I worked through my characters and plot. Very interesting to think through how a concept for a novel unfolds. Have you been following any of the bloggers who are participating in this month’s NaNoWriMo? They’re meant to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. They have been working through some of these same questions. Good luck!!!


    Jane Fritz

    November 19, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    • Hi Jane. I’ll check out NaNoWriMo. There are so many ways to approach writing a novel. On my last three adventures with novel-writing, I began with the Title. This time, I have no title, yet, just the setting and how it enfolds the characters. Jane


      jane tims

      November 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      • I love it. I went to Linden McIntyre’s talk about his book Why Men Lie; that title came after the book was completely written. I think you’re on the right track! Mostly, I hope you’re enjoying the process.


        Jane Fritz

        November 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm

  3. What better place to start than a church, a symbolic prayer. Very nice idea!



    November 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    • Hi. Thanks. A church, especially an abandoned church, has so many possibilities for writing about atmosphere, about the community, and about history. Jane


      jane tims

      November 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm

  4. Good luck Jane, this sounds like an exciting project for you.
    Did you alter the mechanics of your Blog? I used to have to scroll horizontally to read it1 Now it opens up centered on the screen.



    November 19, 2012 at 9:45 am

    • Hi Jim. Thanks. As for the Blog, I’ll look into it. The first four or five lines were centered, so perhaps it kept that formatting throughout. Thanks for the heads-up. Jane


      jane tims

      November 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm

  5. Absolutely, but I must say I prefer, at least aesthetically, the abandoned churches to the business/home variant …



    November 19, 2012 at 8:31 am

    • Hi. I agree, but so many congregations can’t afford the maintenance costs and so eventually these churches are doomed to ruin. It is true, the ruins have an appeal but only during a certain span of time… Jane


      jane tims

      November 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm

  6. That last shot is a story in itself…. Tolkien had all of Middle Earth mapped out, peopled with cultures and species and languages before he began writing, didn’t he? Creating masses of background material that was never actually used, but still gave the story depth. I think it definitely helps to know your way around as a writer, and it could be a fun project in itself.



    November 19, 2012 at 7:30 am

    • Hi. I look forward to the research… as you say, much of the background will never make it into the book, but hopefully it will show up in the characterisations and the ‘truth’ of the story. I definitely want to include a map with my book. Jane


      jane tims

      November 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm

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