This gives me a bit of a dilemma: setting is probably one of the least-used tools in my writer's toolbox, as my focus is usually on the characters' actions and thoughts and emotions. In fact, those characters are more likely than I am to describe the world around them. And that can be a very good thing!
In my opinion, filtering the story through the eyes of the hero, heroine, or a secondary character helps make the story people more real. The more real they are, the more we care about them.
Also, when characters describe something through their eyes, they tend to give us their insights by way of a plot element, a piece of dialogue, a memory, or an emotion.
Here's an example from the first book set in the small town of Flagman's Folly, New Mexico. Sam is the hero of A Rancher's Pride:
Looking out across the yard, Sam said, "Laying in fence, breaking a horse, rounding up cattle. Jack, those jobs, you know I can handle with my eyes closed."
The foreman nodded.
And here are a couple of brief clips from the new Flagman's Folly story, Rancher at Risk. The hero, Ryan Malloy, has just been reassigned to his boss's new ranch:
He would do his job, get right again with the man who paid his wages, and move on to...who the hell cared where.
Trying to ignore the sudden stiffness in his shoulders, he focused on the building ahead of him. Tall columns held the porch up, though the structure looked sturdy enough to do without them. Beneath that sheltering roof stood a white-haired man impersonating an Elvis gone forty years past his prime.
*Great.* If he'd had to ruin his grand entrance into Flagman's Folly, couldn't he have done it without an audience?
The second clip:
No breeze moved the cottonball clouds. No air moved at all, except for a shimmery haze generated by the heat of the sun.
Only early May. What would things be like here in the dog days of summer?
A horse and rider came into view from the west, riding hard.
He swallowed against a sudden rush from the past....
Standing on the north ridge where cell phone reception didn't exist, spotting the horse and rider that would bring him the message no one ever wanted to hear. Making his own breakneck rush to the ranch and the pickup truck and the road into town. And, finally, reaching the claustrophobic waiting room where a sad-eyed surgeon fought exhaustion and watched him fight back tears...
You probably get the idea Ryan's not happy to be in Flagman's Folly. And you're right!
I love to write about small-town settings.
If the characters have grown up there, chances are they're going to have plenty of memories and emotions tied to almost every place they go. But even when they're complete strangers to a location, as Ryan is, they'll be impacted by their surroundings, too. Though setting isn't my most-used tool, the characters can find just what they need to tell their stories.
What's your favorite setting in a novel? A small town? A big city? An exotic locale? A ranch or a courtroom or a submarine?
Please leave a comment or question if you'd like to be entered in a drawing for an autographed copy of Rancher at Risk.
And Happy New Year to you all!
A Fresh Start
After the loss of his family in a tragic accident, Ryan Malloy has been given one last chance to change his life. His boss sends him to Flagman's Folly, New Mexico, to run his ranch, but unfortunately, Ryan's troubled attitude lands him in hot water with the locals, especially the ranch's manager, Lianne Ward.
Deaf since birth, Lianne has never let her disability define who she is. But, she's yet to meet a man who treats her as an equal. Ryan seems different…that is, when they're not butting heads over the ranch's new school for disadvantaged boys.
Forced to work together, Lianne and Ryan discover an unexpected attraction beneath their quarreling. But will Ryan's painful past drive them apart…permanently?
Originally from the East Coast, award-winning author Barbara White Daille now lives with her husband in the warm, sunny Southwest, where they love the lizards in the front yard but could do without the scorpions in the bathroom. You can learn more about Barbara and her books at: www.barbarawhitedaille.com