April 12, 2009

Settings That Sell

One of the things about writing I often wonder about is the setting. When I started writing back in 2003, I took the adage "write what you know" and applied it to the setting. I placed the majority of the story on an old rural road I grew up on, taking several creative liberties with it along the way. It was a way of reaching a comfort level in the writing. Instead of creating a place from scratch, or placing the characters in a real area I'm less familiar with, I set the story on a road I once knew like the back of my hand.

Setting a horror novel in rural Nova Scotia seems like a sure-fire way to keep literary agents and publishers at bay, however, and I wonder if it's chances would improve if told in a more "marketable" setting. I'm probably over thinking it. Heck, if Stephen King can set countless stories in Maine, which is spitting distance from Nova Scotia, I'm sure there is little issue with setting any kind of story there.

I've never read a story, or had one recommended to me, which had a setting I considered unworthy of my time. It's a bit unreasonable to consider it really, as I doubt anyone tosses a Dean Koontz novel over their shoulder because it might be set in California. On the other hand, stories seem to have added mystique when placed somewhere that is alluring to some degree—the I-want-to-go-to-there reaction. I love the Maritimes, but I don't think I'd say it carries the same mystique as, let's say, New Orleans or London.

The question stems from the fact I have read very little by Canadian authors, and only one novel that had any slice of Canada as it's setting (The Shipping News by E. Anne Proulx). And, I don't think there are any titles presently on my wish list that have Canada, let alone Nova Scotia, as a setting. Is it my fault, or are stories better off told in a country with a greater number of consumers?—America, I'm looking in your direction.

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