Archive for 'Monument Valley'

Setting the stage
by Jessa Slade on October 12th, 2009

Currently working on: Recovering from last weekend’s Emerald City Writers Conference — Jessa’s unofficial motto: Too much fun, not enough sleep
Mood: Groggy

I chose my hometown of Chicago for the world of the Marked Souls, because the city has so many facets.  Its changeable weather, its rich and poor neighborhoods, its many moods offer endless potential for any scene. 

But before I started writing, while I was still just in thinking mode about the story, I also scouted — at least in my imagination — a few other possibilities.

setting-nawlinsWell, who doesn’t think of Nawlins, Loosyana as a wonderful setting?  And never mind what kind of story it is.  The city reeks of character (character and soured alcohol, that is).  I’ve visited twice.  Once was for a Romance Writers of America conference.  Yup, 2000 romance writers loose on the streets of the French Quarter.  Sadly, a missed opportunity for the Girls Gone Wild video guys.

But the second time was a strange, surrel trip when XY and I showed up late on Christmas Eve.  We’d scored a ridiculously cheap room in the Quarter.  The city was all but empty, the streets eerily quiet.  We walked our dog down to the river.  An old homeless man stood on the bank, swaying a little.  He sang “Old Man River” and never looked at us.

But, New Orleans has been so done but so many that I couldn’t justify using it, even though I’d already half-written a tasty love scene with Cafe Du Monde’s beignets.  Powdered sugar is insufficent building material for a whole story.


I also considered the American West.  I love all those sprawling states and have traveled through swaths of them.  Desolate, wild and elemental with the best star displays in the country IMO, the deserts have graced the backdrop of many a stripped-down lawman on the trail of a heartless killer, which certainly would’ve worked for the demon-possessed warriors in my storyworld. 

But I decided I needed more cannon fodder characters to people my story, and while the scenic West abounds in dramatic colors, vast skies and dangers aplenty, the one thing it’s often missing is people.  Hard to stage a battle for souls when there aren’t souls enough to go around.

setting-portlandOf course, I also contemplated my current city, Portland Oregon.  A less often used setting, no doubt, with a good range of sub-settings: Mt Hood on the skyline, the beach an hour away, a pretty river through the center of the city.

But in the end, I couldn’t stage an epic battle between good and evil in a town where plaid flannel is still considered appropriate evening wear.  Obviously, purgatory has already won.

I’m happy with my final choice, but I do sometimes wonder how a different setting might have changed my story.  And whether, say, a setting in the Caribbean could’ve justified a “research trip.”  Maybe I’ll do another short story. Maybe “Demons Gone Wild” could be set in Cancun, where my moody, broody heroes get a new eyeful of wicked.

Do you think your life story would’ve been different if you’d had another setting?  Where would you stage the movie version of your new life?