Friday, December 28, 2007

does the setting count?

Back on the fast-paced sex-and-money bestseller concept. How much does setting matter, I find myself wondering? Silly question, in a way, because as the wildly addicted reader I am (don't even ask how many books I've read in the last several weeks--completely read, mind you, not just skimmed), I know that good writing can be set anywhere. Bad writing can be set anywhere. And sexy, fast-faced books (romances, thrillers, mysteries, what-have-you) can be set darn near anywhere, and it doesn't really matter as long as the writing, concept/plot, and characters are compelling, have essential conflicts, and make you want to keep reading!

Sigh. I have so many freaking ideas rattling around in my head, it's no wonder other things get lost in there at times. Anyone else have that issue? Ever? No? Of course you do! It's the chattering monkey-mind, as Buddhists would call it. It afflicts all of us. I think we writers get especially afflicted, however. Drat it all. I do meditate, not as often as I perhaps would like, but I do on occasion. And it helps. On occasion.

Anyway. Back on my tell-all bestseller. I finished reading one of those this morning, a bestselling novel from several years ago, from across the pond, as they say. God, so many of those "women's fiction," "chick lit," whatever you want to title them, bestsellers seem to be from the little isles in the north sea! What does that mean about folks from the UK? Are they more bored, is that why they write (and read) those kinds of books so much? Or did they just jump on the bandwagon first? Anyway, I can't say for sure this particular novel was a tell-all--but parts of it definitely sounded like some of the characters and stories were ripped from the life of the author, or her friends, perhaps. I should look it up online and see what the real back story is.

Anyway. So, if my story has sex, betrayal, lies upon lies, smooth-talking back-stabbing corporate baddies, psychotic bipolar-esque women and soul-less freak show men, a 33-year-old male virgin who obviously had high heels near-fatally stab his heart when he was young and foolishly impressionable, corporate thievery, sexy babes on skis, hottie guys in hot tubs, lawsuits, and a host of other similar themes/events/characters, and it's set against a sexy metropolitan background, that should mean instant success (depending on the actual quality of the writing and storytelling, of course), right? But what if it was set in small-ish town Durango, Colorado? What if instead of being set in a hip New York publishing house with Jimmy Choo-wearing Carrie Bradshaw-esque agents and writers, it was set partially in an up-and-coming wilderness therapy program that featured characters more like hippie Carhartt-wearing Chris from Northern Exposure? (Loved him.) What does that sort of setting do for a book? Does it label it too soon, does it make readers immediately pigeon-hole it before they open the cover?

Hmm...I wonder.

Or perhaps some of the details ought to be changed more. To protect the guilty, natch.

It's all fiction, anyway. ;)

But curious for comments from the peanut gallery. What makes you pick up a book? I don't mean the type of book, the genre or subgenre. I mean, what about the cover, story, characters, etc., makes you want to read something? What helps you make that decision in your 3.5 seconds of examining a book in the bookstore or library? (And yes, I do believe it is indeed something like 3.5 seconds. Probably less, in our ADHD, glut-of-choices, information-overload world.)

Why do you read what you read? And, more importantly, why do you not read certain things?

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