Although itís not a new phenomenon, Iíve noticed recently that in some genres, especially crime, mystery and romance, readers seem to enjoy reading novels that are part of a series set in one location.
Ian Rankinís Inspector Rebus books are set mainly in Edinburgh, Manda Scottís crime novels are set in Glasgow and Martin Walkerís Bruno, Chief of Police books are set in the Dordogne region of France. In the romance and historical fiction genres Jean Fullertonís characters people London, Mary A. Larkin evokes the last century in Belfast, Maeve Binchy is firmly rooted in Ireland and E. V. Thompsonís stories are set in Devon and Cornwall. These are just a few examples but, judging by the popularity of some of these series, place may be a selling point for fiction.
Many plots can be set anywhere and the same plot easily be transposed from one location to another. But adding a strong sense of place to a story can strengthen it and make it more appealing to the reader. I sometimes choose a book partly based on where it is set. This may be because I have been there and have an affinity for the place so I enjoy being reminded of it as I read or it may be because I plan to visit the area where the book is set and I want to get a flavour of it before I go. I suspect other readers sometimes choose books for similar reasons.
Setting a series of books or stories in a particular place can be advantageous for newly published writers who want their work to be noticed and, hopefully, grow in popularity. Firstly the writer is giving readers what they seem to want. And secondly, they are building a Ďbrandí for themselves. Readers who enjoy a writerís first book and its setting will be keen to read subsequent books in the series and will have an idea of what to expect. For those of us who donít have several books under our belts yet, the same can apply to short stories. Several short stories, set in the same place, can be targeted to a magazine and submitted individually. The magazineís readers will come to know what they can expect from the writer and look forward to the next story. The stories can also be published later in a collection.
Itís not necessary to write long, rambling passages about the place where a story is set to convey what itís like to the reader. The setting can remain the background but still be very real and important. Carefully chosen details dropped into the work, using all the senses, will vividly create a place. Using smells and sounds is especially effective to create images in readerís minds. †Unless you are writing grim crime novels set in gritty environments, create a setting that readers will find appealing and will enjoy visiting in their imagination. It will encourage them to continue reading and come back for more.
I havenít written a series yet but most of my work, a novel and a collection of short stories, is set in Ireland, my adopted homeland, and I have a fascination with the place where I live. As I plan future work I will keep in mind the advantages of sticking with the setting Iíve chosen because, in this era of plentiful books, what attracts readers is something writers need to consider.