How Do You Like That Setting?

Alberta’s chinook winds play a part in the plot of Never Say Spy.  Had you ever heard of that phenomenon before you read the book?  Did you find the extreme temperature change described in the book believable at first reading?

When you’re reading a series set in a location unfamiliar to you, do geographical differences pop out or blend into the story for you?

Do you look up additional facts about the setting in order to enrich your reading experience, or do you rely on the story to inform you?

23 thoughts on “How Do You Like That Setting?

  1. Settings….do they pop or blend? I am going to have to say both. When a setting if first being introduced (in some form or fashion) I notice it. I especially notice it if it is in an area I am very familiar with. For example, I know quite a lot about Southern Louisiana, therefore if a book is set in this location, either with a Acadian setting or a New Orleans setting, I can relate to many things being said or experienced during the book, making the read a more connected experience. It also lets me know if the author has a real clue about the setting or just hearsay. Both of these effect the way I read the book, or process it.

    On the flip side of this, if a book is set in a region I have never been to or know nothing about then all those little scraps of setting interwoven in the book adds to my trivia bank of knowledge that I can later pull from later on as I read other books set in the same/near same location. The Never Say Spy books have increased my Canadian (setting)knowledge by bounds. And, yes, I have had to look up a few things I had no idea what was being said (chinook being one).

    Now, once I have started reading and the setting has made itself known and I understand certain weather phenomena specific to the local, then the setting begins to blend. No longer does the setting stand out but becomes part of the flow of the story. Just like the first time you walk into an unknown location, you take notice of the colors, textures, and decor, and anything else that feeds your senses. But venture that location again and things tend to blend. So it is in a story.

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  2. As with Laurel, I do both. Many of the same points apply to me as well. If it’s familiar or plausible, I absorb it and continue on. If it’s something new, I stop right then and look it up. That’s no real imposition to me since I like to learn new things.

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  3. I must admit I’ve not heard of it and will probably look it up later

    I tend to accept that the writer knows the area they are setting the book, it does make me howl with laughter watching TV programmes set in northeast England that make stuff up, it looks nice but you know its wrong, you accept it works.

    Best one was probably (and anyone outside of the UK will never have heard of it) Byker Grove it was actually filmed the in the west of the city not the east so really should have been Elswick Grove but it wasn’t.

    Honestly I don’t think about it, I love reading more for the thrill of enjoying a good book maybe that’s just me, I have friends that get atlas’s out to check not me I enjoy my book bubble

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    1. I laugh (or groan) too when they make things up or exaggerate certain traits. The cajun accent is a beautiful sound but sometimes hollywood/actors just have no idea and over emphasize it. Dennis Quaid did this in The Big Easy… I am sure he is embarrassed by when he looks back.. He is not the only one. For some reason, hollywood thinks anyone from New Orleans speaks with a cajun accent, two different places two different accents.

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    2. Not all authors know what they’re talking about. The worst example I recall was from the first guy who took over writing the James Bond books after Ian Fleming passed. Dreadful. Mountains in the Texas Panhandle? Seriously? I lived there at the time, and the elevation change from one corner all the way to the other is less than two hundred feet. You can look more and see less there than at any other place on the planet!! Clearly, the guy had never even seen the Panhandle on a freakin’ MAP!

      One of the Jack Reacher books had some glaring mistakes in it about that same area of Texas, too. And I actually LIKE his work! I like his sense of justice and the way he goes about getting things done. But I take his local color with a grain of salt.

      Anyway, I greatly respect those who take the time and make the effort to get it right.

      And Diane does it really right. I respect that very much.

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  4. I must admit with TV I take it with a pinch or salt, id love to say I know every accent but I don’t.

    I must admit that I was born in England, and brought up in the north east in Newcastle upon Tyne. I have lived here most of my life apart from the first 4 years and a couple of years at uni.
    I do have a Geordie accent, but at my last job on a few occasions I was asked if I was from Jamaica or the islands, alas I have never been to either (and these were from people who lived there)

    but at least I’m not as bad as S’Mel Gibson in Braveheart

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  5. I grew up in the high desert country of southeastern Idaho. Having experienced that kind of temperature and temperature changes, I found it completely believable. I was further south than Calgary but about 2200 feet higher in altitude so it was pretty similar in temperature.
    I like that the settings are in Alberta. It’s nice to have something a little different from the usual.

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  6. I love that you make no apologies for the series being set in western Canada- or anywhere in Canada at all. That’s one of the things I found intriguing. Books are set all over the world-why not in the great white north? I’m sick of seeing tv shows, obviously shoton Canadian soil, where they claim to be in an American city. There’s more than enough of that. Time for us to come outta the shadows.

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    1. It’s funny – the first time I read a book that was set in a Canadian city I recognized, it was almost distracting (in a good way). I’d gotten so used to reading about ‘some American city’ that the setting never mattered to me; then suddenly I was reading along and thinking, “Hey, I know where that is!”

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  7. As a reader: When it comes to setting, I prefer the elegant simplicity of a Japanese watercolour where every perfect stroke has meaning; not a baroque oil painting with layer upon layer of overbearing detail. I love stories where the setting almost becomes a character of its own, but I quickly get turned off by paragraph after paragraph of description. Lyrical though it may be, it’s not advancing the story. If the prose is so beautiful in itself that the story becomes secondary to the descriptions, that’s okay, but there aren’t many writers who can pull that off.

    I love learning new things about real-life settings through fiction, and I wholly depend on the author for that. I’ve never looked up a place to get more information during, or after finishing, a book. (And if I’m researching for one of my own books I prefer to visit in person to capture all the tiny nuances.)

    As a writer: I try to splash the important points of the setting onto the canvas as economically as possible and let the reader’s imagination fill in the rest, but sometimes I also use setting as a way to modulate pace. If you’re charging into a room with your gun drawn and your heart in your mouth, you may notice there’s a concrete floor; but if you’re lying tied up on the same floor you’re going to see a whole different level of detail. And while you’re contemplating that gouge in the concrete from close range, the pace slows for just an instant and the suspense ratchets up. In blues music, it’s the slight holding-back of rhythm that makes the next note feel like perfect release. That’s my ideal goal!

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    1. You describe it perfectly for me. One of my favourite series of books was almost spoiled by the release of maps. Discworld, they did 4 maps and as brilliant as they were when it came to re-reading the books for some they found faults in some the city was described as one way and in others a different way, to me that just added to it and the delight’s I had the maps up on the wall of my first flat but never really looked at them.
      I prefer the writer to give me their discription of the area, I get a mental image and that’s enough for me, I can picture myself there either beside, or behind the characters as I read. Your books have given me great mental pictures of places I will probably never visit. I’m not great in high heat or freezing cold.
      If I ever won squillions and squillions of pounds I’d want to buy myself a floating island and just move around the world, it’s never going to happen as I don’t play the lottery and I doubt I could get an actual island to move the way I want but a girl can dream it costs nothing.

      But anyway your books are great and I love the way you write I love that as its somewhere i dont know it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect or accurate to true life but it works for me

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  8. Growing up in Michigan I was used to the frigid cold that the Canadian Winds would bring down upon us in Winter, so I was confused when I read about a Chinook Wind. I did the Google thing and realized why I’d never heard of it! 😉
    I am constantly referencing Google to make sure I understand the environment of a setting. Sometimes I’ve even had to swing out to YouTube to get a reference to a song. (you know…some people will just put out there that so and so’s song just set the mood) If I’ve never heard the song, I don’t know the mood that’s being set – so I go out and listen to a bit.
    I appreciate when Authors give a bit more description to their settings, rather than a one or two word reference. Perhaps it’s my personal form of OCD??? Who knows!
    I know I’m more attentive to settings – I worked set & props in high school drama, and when I was in college, I wrote about how the lighting set the mood for the memory flashbacks in “Death of a Salesman” – because lets be honest…what a BORE of a movie!!! LOL Since I couldn’t get into the story line, I paid attention to the effects of the lighting. (It was a video of a stage performance). The teacher was thrilled to have read a paper that didn’t drone on and one about the same old stuff!!! I remember I got an A+ on that paper….first time for that, too!

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    1. What a great approach to your paper – no wonder you got an A+! And it’s funny; I never look up the details of a setting, but if an author refers to a song I’ll immediately go and find it if I don’t already know it. 🙂

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  9. I’m sure I’d heard weather announcers talk of chinook warm winds dropping out of Canada to warm things up a bit here in Minnesota so I didn’t have to look it up.

    With printed books, I hate to break the flow of the story to stop and look up unfamiliar words or settings, but now with my Kindle App on my phone, all I need to do is highlight the word and gain access to a dictionary or Wikipedia and quickly get right back to where I left off, so I do find my habits have changed and my vocabulary and Geographic understanding has benefited from it.

    As a child many family vacations took us through Canada so when you talk about Banff and Lake Louise and the Chateau there I’ve got the images right in my head. I loved Vancouver and although I never spent quality time in the rainforests in Britsh Columbia, I stayed 6 weeks in the rainforests in Olympic National Park and painted the forests and coastline, and I stayed two weeks in a hippy hostel, so I think I can visualize the commune and setting.

    With other authors’ books, if the setting is in some fictional suburban setting, I prefer to use my imagination. If the setting is in a famous place such as Paris France, or Venice Italy a map is helpful in understanding the distances from one area to another.

    I confess looking on a Google map for where Silverside and Harchman’s property might be, where Drumheller is in relation to Calgary, and the relative distances to Banff and Victoria, etc.

    If I’d only read each book once or twice, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to look anything up.

    You must use settings you know well or you’d get the equivalent of Lynn snorting over those mountains on the Texas panhandle. You’re a Canadian from the Calgary area. You’d never ring true if you made the setting in Chicago, unless you lived there a while. I’m guessing you’ve been to ‘Vagas a time or two and hated it overall, but as a minor setting in two books, it feels like you’ve been there.

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    1. Oh, and I was shocked when you wrote that the trip Aydan and Kane took to Memphis would take something like 15 hours via normal airlines. Yikes! That’s as long as it would take for me to fly to Paris, France.

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      1. Oops. Macon, Georgia and Memphis, Tennessee. If I was ever in either city I would have been around 10 years old and clueless about geography and music, actually pretty ignorant about everything. I haven’t been to that part of the country since then although North Carolina seems to get a lot of mentions in reference to art/artists/and art material suppliers.

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    2. Yes, we used to go to Vegas every year to shoot in the World Archery Tournament. I can enjoy it in small doses from Monday to Thursday if I’m doing something else most of the time, but on Friday when the crowds arrive, I just want to be outta there!

      And if you’re looking on your map, Silverside would be roughly in the same location as Hanna, Alberta. 🙂

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