Back to Basics: Setting the Scene with Author Jennifer Faye

By Harlequin Romance Author Jennifer Faye

When you think of writing a book, you might not readily think of the setting. However, the setting of a story is its backbone. It’s the bones upon which a story is built.

The setting you choose should be integral to the story. You shouldn’t be able to pick up your story and move it to another location without your story falling apart.

For example, in my latest release, Greek heir to Claim Her Heart, the story takes place on a luxurious Greek island. This story would not work in say, London or New York City. First of all, the story takes place during Valentine’s (February). In London or New York City in February you would expect to find snow. On this Greek island, it’s warm and raining. And the rain plays a crucial role in my hero and heroine’s first meet.

Perhaps you’re wondering about locating the story on another island, say Hawaii? Well, that wouldn’t work because not only is this a beautiful island in a warmer climate but the island comes with a royal history that plays out in the trilogy.

I actually find the setting a lot of fun to create. In fact, it takes me a lot of time, thought and research. For me, the setting is a lot like a character as it has a history, a look, and a certain feel.

The setting also creates atmosphere in a book. Sometimes you might want a light and fun tone, which you could portray with a light blue and marshmallow clouds. However, in Greek heir to Claim Her Heart the first scene takes place at night with a rainstorm. The weather is indicative of the characters’ moods. She’s exhausted and worried about her future. Everything feels very tumultuous to her. And the hero wants absolutely nothing to do with Ludus Island. Yet he’s been forced to come here to conclude some personal business and he is in a very foul mood.

And then there are other times when you can do the opposite. Such as when a character is sad and moody and yet the sun is shining bright. You could say that the beautiful summer day was mocking them with its bright, cheerfulness.

You can do the same with an interior setting. When a character enters a room, you could describe the room as having two brown couches facing each other with a coffee table in between and bright white walls. The reader could picture that in their mind, but it wouldn’t give them any sense of the person that lives there.

Whereas perhaps one of the couches has an old quilt draped over the back of it. The heroine remembers her mother making it. And not only are there throw pillows on the couch but also a well-loved teddy bear. Who does the bear belong to? And why was it left there? And how does the heroine react to seeing?

Make the setting work for you by providing the details. Let your characters interact with the things around them in a meaningful way. If a room or location doesn’t evoke emotions in the character have them move on to a different setting until you find one that plays for or against the character’s feelings. Because in the end, it’s all about getting the characters and readers to have an emotional response to your setting.

If you want to see how I implement these tips, pick up the first book in my Greek Paradise Escape series for Harlequin Romance, Greek heir to Claim Her Heart available now!

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Editor associated with this post

Emma Marnell
Editorial Assistant

Emma Marnell is an Editorial Assistant for Harlequin Medical Romance and Harlequin Romance. She joined the company after finishing her MA in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University, following a brief stint in New York City (her one true love) and a BA in English Literature and Geography from the National University of Ireland Galway. Originally from Galway, Ireland, Emma’s love for romance came from curling up with a blanket and a good romance on the windy beaches of the west coast of Ireland, where she would be transported to different worlds with luscious heroes. She still can’t quite believe she’s lucky enough to read happy endings for a living and working for Harlequin is a dream come true. Always dreaming of her next escape, Emma is passionate about finding fresh voices and exciting settings.