Monday, May 18, 2009

The setting makes the story... kinda

I'm  not sure if I've mentioned it, but Ghost Mountain is the first in a series.  I've started the second book, tentatively titled Let Sleeping Bears Lay.  The original plan was to have seven books in the series, each mystery taking place at another location around the Black Hills.  Though now the number in the series may end up being 12.

You see, the crimes in the series all take place at Lakota Holy Sites.  The Black Hills area is a very sacred place to the Lakota people and I'm fascinated with their history and culture.  The change in numbers depends on which "expert" you listen to.  Are there seven sacred sites?  Or are there 12?  

In the grand scheme of things, it probably doesn't matter.  There are areas throughout the hills where you can feel the energy.  Devils Tower is magnificent and inspires feelings of awe.  Then again, Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood (final resting place of  Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, among others) invokes those same feelings in me.  

For this series, setting makes the story.  I would have a totally different story without the feelings, legends, and history of Devils Tower or Bear Butte.  There would be no need for the Lakota tie-in if the crimes happened somewhere else.  And that tie is the reason one of my characters is in the story.

When I write short stories, though, the setting isn't as important.  It's the characters I focus on then.  Even in a novel, it's the characters who keep us reading.  With fewer words to play with, the setting in a short becomes less relevant.

So here's to the setting!  Take those spooky or historical or just plain fantastic places and use them!  Let the setting help tell your story....  if you can.

P.S.  I'm headed to Mayhem in the Midlands.  I hope to tell you all about it next week!

1 comment:

Keri Stevens said...

As a reader, the setting sells me. I don't know from a blurb much about the characters, but I'll make a decision based on Scotland/Ireland/Egypt/rural Tennessee. Once I'm there, the characters let me know whether I'll be coming back to that author.

I do like the idea of your setting--always enchanted when an author makes a familiar place, well, enchanted!
(Captcha is "commom"--really doesn't evoke an exotic locale, does it?)