Setting: Making It Real and Establishing a Mood

The Grotto Spring in the day time.

Today I read a really interesting post on how to build a strong setting by D.M. Pulley. In addition to the importance of deciding whether or not you should you as actual place or a completely fictional location, she also talked about mapping your city or neighborhood and drawing something similar to a blueprint for all important buildings.

Something else I noticed this weekend was using a setting to establish the mood or tone of your story.  Last Friday, we were walking a friend back to the Writer’s Colony in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Just before we reached her house, we met a couple sitting on a bench enjoying the cool air and watching the wildlife.  A pair of foxes had just wandered off into the dark.

They asked us if we had every been down into the Grotto Spring which they were sitting next too.  The cave-like grotto was down a set of stairs and shrowded in darkness.  No way was my friend going to go down there but I’m often nosier than I am bright.  The light from my phone wouldn’t let me see back into the corners so all I could get a look at was the shrine against the back wall.  I’m not super spooky but it was creepy.

The rest of the walk we discussed how perfect the town was on a dark October evening as a setting for a ghost story or horror.  Leaves rattled in the dark. The damp sidewalks were uneven limestone, often slippery underfoot.  Periodically a Victorian house loomed up out of the dark.  The next morning not far from her house, we spotted a tree full of vultures!  A fossil shop had a cave bear skeleton for sale.

Flatiron Bldg. Tile

But then it quit raining and the sun came out.  All around town were houses painted bright colors – pink, red, yellows and greens.  We met a friendly cat and oohed and aahed over broad porches, towers with conical roofs and even a statue of a protocerytops in one yard.  Sunlight reached to the far corners of the grotto.  One building in the historic district had gorgeous tile work. This wasn’t a horror setting but someplace a girl might accompany a family member to one of the healing springs.

Touching historic fiction.  Light hearted family story.  Or dark, gothic mystery.  Any of these types of stories and more could be set in the same town.  It all depends on what details you the author choose to bring forward.


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