Location, Location—Choose Your Storyline Location Wisely, It’s an Important Main Charact
Location, location, location—it’s the mantra of anyone who’s in real estate. If you’re a writer, it’s of paramount importance too. To me, setting the location for your storyline is one of the most important tasks a writer has when developing and outlining, whether it be for a book, short story, script—it sets the scene for the reader as to what’s to come. If you choose the wrong location for your storyline, you’ll have a much harder time convincing readers to cross over into your fictional world, and none of us want that.
What do I mean by a storyline location? Think about these books or shows (examples are some of my favorites)—what image comes to mind as you read the following? The Davinci Code (The Louvre/Paris); Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle/English countryside); Under the Tuscan Sun (Bramasole/lovely Tuscan hills); Star Wars (Galaxy/far, far, away); and finally, anything Miss Marple (St. Mary Meade/quintessential village).
In my view, the location settings used for these books and fave shows were genius. I’ll admit it, I’ve stalked the paintings at the Louvre and scoured the streets of Paris looking for the clues and locations described in the book. I’m planning a trip to see the beautiful grounds of Highclere Castle next spring—I invested 6 seasons of my life watching DA (oh how I miss thee)—I need to walk the grounds of my beloved characters, pretending to come back to the estate after church. We’ve toured the rolling Tuscan hills of Italy, thinking like millions of others how wonderful it would be to have our own ‘Bramasole’ villa, la dolce vita style.
Now granted, exploring outer space is not in my current realm of physical reality, but when I see the Star Wars galaxies and exotic worlds, I want to be there, I can imagine being there with the characters, zipping around the cosmos, dodging light sabers—I’ve been hooked. Mentally I’ve sat with Miss Marple in her garden, looking at her flowers, sipping tea, reveling in her stories of human nature and village life. I even toyed with the idea of taking up knitting…
Obviously your storyline locations don’t have to exist in real life. The Cherrywood Hall estate I describe in my book stories is fictional, an amalgamation of turrets, sea paths, follies, vineyards—scenes and pictures from my travels, magazines, shows, Pinterest, that I’ve accumulated over the years. I can describe Cherrywood Hall in detail, because mentally I’ve walked the halls and grounds many times. It’s a location that fits my storyline well, and I try to utilize it’s beauty and surroundings wisely. I want my readers to come to love these hollowed halls and grounds as much as I do, visiting often, and associating the My American Almost Royal Cousin series storylines with it.
My point is that I cannot imagine these stories or shows having different locations now. The writers and filmmakers so closely attuned their storylines with them, that for me, I’ve mentally identified, pictured, and embedded the storyline with the setting location–they’ve become a main character to me. Highclere Castle is Downton Abbey, just as Michele Dockery is Lady Mary. I’ll always scrutinize a Leonardo Divinci painting when given the chance, looking over my shoulder as I stroll the Seine, after reading the Divinci Code. My husband and I opted out of buying a Tuscan villa, but I’ve scooped up Frances Mayes wonderful cookbooks, making her wonderful dishes and eating them in our California patio, la dolce vita style 🙂
Writers and filmmakers have tried to take a revered storyline and update it’s period, modernize it’s characters, change the location from 1500’s Italy to 1990’s Miami. Foreign films get made over in language and location frequently. I’ll even go with taking period works or characters and adapting, changing history, and expanding them into new roles such as vampire or zombie slayers (OK, I may have to draw the line there, but that’s just me and my personal preference, if it’s you–go for it!) It can be done of course, but to me changing a location is just as traumatic as replacing an actor or character—it’s hard for me to do the transplantation.
I often pose this question to my readers or social media audience—Would you let a period television drama series be filmed at your estate? I ask this somewhat in jest, since it’s a main storyline in the My American Almost Royal Cousin series of books. But every time I ask it, I visualize Cherrywood Hall immediately, and think about it. I hope you do to. What’s your favorite location setting been? What do you think when characters or locations are changed?
Crowns and Kisses,
P.S. Thank you genius authors and filmmakers for telling your stories in the most marvelous of locations! Gemma approves 🙂