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I apologize for the delay in writing. Friday hit, and a few things happened to get in my way of doing the things I need and want to do. However, I am back and with this week's writing tip.

Last Monday, while I sat in Panera Bread on 15th Street, just off of Utica here in Tulsa, I was struck by an idea for yet another story. This happened to be inspired by reading a summary for an Avengers fanfiction piece. The idea is for an urban fantasy story set in a "modern" time period and guarantees that, no matter where the story is set, the idea will work out brilliantly.

So, here I am again, at the Panera on 15th, just off Utica, writing about the pains for picking a setting for urban fantasy. Why? Because on Monday, I posed the question in a vague way at my writer's forum and got a list of places that could be used for an urban fantasy but not on the merits of choosing said locations. I even got the advice to create my own setting using what I know about growing up in a small town and making it unique, which, sadly, was more frustrating for me than encouraging.

For some, this may bring up the question of why care about the setting? Just write the story anyway and worry about the setting later! This all well and good advice if the setting has no bearing on the conflict. I can see how such advice can work for generic, run-of-the-mill romance novels, but only to an extent. Choosing a setting adds to the complexity and dynamics of a story as well as creates and enhances current conflicts and themes. The Lord of the Rings might have been a different story entirely if Tolkien had not created Moria or the Pass of Cadharas in the Misty Mountains!

As such, when it comes to choosing a setting, there are a few things to consider:

Point One: What is the genre of the story?

Let's run with romance for a moment. Now, for the most part, as long as the author generates an interesting plot with interesting characters, the setting is of no great importance. The focus is that of the relationship, is it not? However, the setting can add for a different flair, a different flavor, and add to the conflict. Here's how.

if the romance is set in a major city, such as New York City, the author can add an elevated sense of mystery and drama to his/her romance novel as the hero/heroine tries to find and save his/her lover from some deranged stalker. New York City is a very large place, after all, so there are plenty of places a kidnapper/stalker can take his/her victirm. The city setting itself adds to the nuances of conflict.

Now, let's scale back a bit. Say our romance writer has decided to write about a budding relationship in a small town somewhere in the South where family feuds were known to be bloody and violent. Small towns are known for being quaint and cozy and holding no secrets. Supposedly.

The same attributes can be applied to writing an urban fantasy. The idea an author has for the plot is also very crucial to the type of setting as major cities and small towns present their own challenges. Some ideas are specific to certain settings, i.e. what could work in a small town might not work in a major city and vice versa.

Remember, with each main genre, there is a multitude of sub-genres. Fantasy has urban fantasy, Romance has historical, for example. Know the genre, and you can pick the setting from there.

Point Two: Who are the characters?

Characters also play a role in choosing a setting. For us fantasy types, our characters need to be able to survive the settings we place them in. The way cannot be easy nor completely impassable. Our characters need to have enough intelligence and wisdom to be able to navigate over mountains, oceans, and rivers, and through forests and across deserts. An educated princess may not have all the knowledge she needs in order to find food for survival if she's had to flee her home.

Point Three: What is your plot?

Not all plots are created equal. Snow in the desert just won't work, not unless there's something bigger at play, like a natural catastrophe about to happen or someone opening a portal to a world that they shouldn't have. Just because we the writers want to write it doesn't mean it can work just because we want it to work. Keeping it plausible and realistic is the best way to keep a reader engaged.

So while I shelve the idea from last Monday in favor of current works, I leave everyone with this tidbit for writing. Ponder your setting. Ponder its relevance to your plot and your characters, and you can have a spectacular story in the making!

Until the next time!