Ciao, SEers! The last time we met, we talked about time. Today, we’re moving on to the next of the four elements of setting: locale.

“Locale” is the answer to “where” your story takes place. This is both on the grand scale and on the small.

Grand Scale Locale

When we talk about the grand scale, we’re talking about your global position. Possibly even your cosmic location.

Global locales are simple. Where in the world are you? What continent, country, state, city, and street? We know Sherlock Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street in Victorian London. (Holmes fans might also know that the address was an imaginary one. While Baker Street existed then, the number 221 did not.) Many probably recognize 1313 Mockingbird Lane or 12 Grimmauld Place. What about the Cupboard under the Stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey?

I’m not saying you have to give your characters an address, real or imaginary. But telling us Jim is in a brownstone walk-up in Boston gives us an idea of his community. And of him. Saying he lives in a penthouse overlooking Central Park paints a different picture. As does a loft along the wharf or a studio shared with three others off Broadway. What about a one-bedroom Cape Cod in Connecticut? A four-bedroom Craftsman in Portland?

A log cabin on ten thousand pristine acres in Pierre?

I’m sure you pictured Jim differently in each home. That’s why even a mention of global locale, real or imaginary, helps to define character.

When I say “cosmic” locale, I’m thinking about science fiction epics. These might take place on Jupiter’s moon Io, or planet PA-99-N2 in the Andromeda galaxy, or a a completely fictitious planet (or space station) in a totally made-up solar system on the other side of the universe. You’ll still want to include more details about Jim’s immediate setting, but at least we’ll have an idea of what issues he might encounter and what kind of life he lives.

Small Scale Locale

In the last paragraph, I mentioned giving more details about where Jim is. Those would help us define the small scale. By that, I mean is he huddled under the covers in his bedroom? Sitting on a park bench? Lying on a hammock at the beach? Freezing at an ice fishing hole?

The small scale details you choose to include do help ground the reader, but they also can advance the plot. Remember Chekhov’s gun. If you choose to draw attention to a revolver in a desk drawer at the beginning of the book, someone better use it by the end.

I think you can see how both the grand scale locale and the small scale can help readers relate to your characters as well as help to advance your plot. Next time, we’ll discuss setting as it relates to atmosphere. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you use locale effectively in your work. Let’s talk about it below.

By the way, the answers to the addresses are:
• 1313 Mockingbird Lane (Munsters)
• 12 Grimmauld Place (Sirius Black)
• Cupboard under the Stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey (Harry Potter)

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