The best writers have a knack for bringing, not just their characters to life, but the places in which they set the story. They make me smell the salty brine of the sea or the yeasty goodness of fresh bread. They make me feel the breeze whipping my hair into my eyes or the crunch of summer-dry grass underfoot.
Using description so that it enhances a story without overwhelming it, is definitely an art I’m still learning. My problem is typically that I don’t describe the story world enough for readers to visualize my location. I can see it plain as day, but I haven’t necessarily translated that to the page.
I’ve come to realize that setting has a lot to do with whether a story will sell. And I don’t mean how well the description is handled by the author. It’s become a truism that the Christian market is reluctant to buy anything set outside the United States. If a story is set somewhere else, it must at least have American characters.
This prohibition (if you can call it that) boggles my mind since I am personally fascinated with other cultures and settings. I stand flabbergasted when I hear from people that they only want to read what they already know. I love to be truly transported to some place and immersed in a new world. But I also realize that I’m not the norm, they are.
Recently it seems that the door has begun to crack open a bit. Stories set in England are becoming popular. Regency especially seems to finally be getting a toe-hold in the Christian market. It’ not such a great leap since we share a language and similar culture.
Beyond England I’d be hard pressed to think of a half-dozen stories set in other places in Europe and that number dwindles rapidly if the setting goes so far afield as Africa or Asia.
What settings intrigue you? Do you prefer the familiar or the exotic? Is there any setting that would make a book an auto-buy for you?