“Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else… Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, What happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming?…” -Eudora Welty
My husband and I went to Connecticut a few years ago. One of my favorite TV shows at the time, The Gilmore Girls, was set in the small town of Stars Hollow. The highlight of my trip would be a pilgrimage to that town. It was, after all, just as important a character as Rory or Lorelei, and most of the time I liked the town better than the Gilmores.
It devastated me to learn that Stars Hollow didn’t exist, except on a Warner Brothers lot.
Setting can be a very powerful, integral part of any story. More than just a backdrop, the location can be a threatening antagonist or a stalwart friend. It can arouse feelings in us, love, terror, frustration.
Imagine Harry Potter without Hogwarts:
DuMaurier’s Rebecca without Manderley:
Or Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See without Saint-Malo:
I wanted A Voice Among the Thorns to be set in a small Michigan town. I googled towns in southeastern Michigan, looking for the place that would be a fuzzy blanket for some of the characters, a stifling little pond for others and an escape from reality for another. As soon as I saw Rudds Mill, I knew I’d found my town. The fact that it disappeared long ago didn’t bother me. I’d create the town—geographical fiction, if you like. And the first place I imagined? Candy’s Coffee Shop, of course.