As defined in our earliest chapter, chicklit is women's literature set in modern times. The key word to take note of is modern times. In order to qualify as chicklit, a novel needs to be set in the current, modern society and focussed on a woman dealing with life against the backdrop of the current modern society.
In simpler terms, to write a chicklit novel, always choose an urban setting.
WHAT IS AN URBAN SETTING?
An urban setting is often depicted as being large cities, full of bustling life and careers that seem to influence a large part of life of those who live in them. However, this does not mean all chicklit novels need to be set in a busy city with skyscrapers and hectic work schedules. Over the years, chicklit has developed into a broader genre, where an urban setting could simply mean an idyllic beach town or a quaint vineyard. What is consistent throughout, is that the time period in which the novel takes place is in the current, modern world.
HOW DO I CHOOSE A SETTING?
Choosing a setting is vital in any novel, be it a horror novel or even a chicklit one. A setting is where your plot will take place. To make it easier to visualise, imagine your story as a show. Are you writing an upbeat romance novel? Then choose a setting to showcase this. Are you writing about a mythical monster living in the woods? Then make sure to choose an appropriate setting that corresponds to the plot.
There are numerous ways on how to choose your setting. If you already have an idea on where your novel will take place, finding a setting is a simple task. There is no rule that your setting must be in a city for a chicklit novel. For example, perhaps you have a main character who has been invited to a frenemy's wedding and much of the story takes place at the wedding location. You can choose the location to be a remote, historic village or you could choose a grand hall in a luxurious, getaway retreat.
However, maybe you have a basic idea of what your next novel will be about. Choosing a setting can be a difficult task. How do you know which works best? There is no easy answer. The only way you can truly know if your setting will work is by actually writing about it.
In order to choose your setting, you can start by collecting images of what you imagine your setting to look like and even writing short, unrelated scenes of your setting. This will help you visualise how your setting looks and feels before committing it to your novel.
Another trick that helps is by describing your setting using all your different senses. What does the early mornings of your location sound like? Are there birds chirping, cars driving past or is there silence? Does the air smell fresh with dew or is it heavy with smog? Thinking of your setting with your senses other than only sight, will help you solidify your setting in your mind's eye.
Chicklit novels are very much character-driven. It's not so much what setting you choose that readers care about, but how the setting influences your characters. Chicklit novels are usually light-hearted and witty and readers want to read about your character and how she deals with day to day life. They would rather not read about descriptions of your setting without reading how it has shaped your character into who she is today.
SHAPING YOUR MAIN CHARACTER:
There are many ways that your setting can shape your main character. It can be in small ways like the way she dresses or talks or in big ways, like the way she thinks about certain things like marriage and children. Your setting plays an important role in your chicklit novel. It shapes your character into who she is and how she reacts to life events. A setting is more than a location. It's an aspect that will influence your character's behaviour and thoughts.
For example, if your character is a young 20-something living in a large city, how do you think she'll feel if she's suddenly whisked away to a remote farm? Does she follow the latest fashion trends, eats out with her friends or she is put off by the city-life and longs for something quieter? If she is outgoing and loves the city life, she might hate being in a farm and if she hates the city life, she might love a farm. In both scenarios, the main character is from a city. However, the manner in which the city has influenced her thoughts is dependent on which version of her that you read. In this way, a setting can heavily influence your story as a whole.
It is important to keep in mind that there is a correlation between your setting, your character and the plot as a whole. Determining where you want to set your book is dependent on the lifestyle of your main character that you want to portray. Plot also plays a role in your setting. Is your plot about a businesswoman overcoming the ridicule of a failed project? If so, it is unlikely that you'll want to base your novel in a remote fishing village where business plans aren't high on the list in people's minds.
KNOW YOUR SETTING:
If you're using a real-world place as the backdrop for your setting, make sure that you know the place well! It's very easy to choose a setting that's always used in movies and books, but if you've never been to the place in real life, your writing might come off as amateurish. If you write about a place you know, it comes through as realistic to the reader. If your setting is a bustling city, include your own experiences about the city. Utilise all your senses and incoporate them into your writing. The problem comes in when you choose a setting you've never been to or can't visit (on account of it being in another country altogether!).
This is easily solved. Remember that you don't have to visit the place you're writing about to know about it - there are numerous travel guides, blogs and even travel logs detailing what a specific area is like. Read them, take notes about what stands out to you the most because in most cases, this is what will stand out to your readers as well. You can also watch films and travel documentaries about different places to help you visualise what a certain place looks and feels like. Take note of the locals' reactions, the way they walk and talk. This will aid you when writing your own character and how they interact with the setting you chose.
Another option for you as a writer is to create a fictional setting and loosely base it on a real-world setting. This way, you don't have to adhere strictly to how a real place works, rather, you can choose to incorporate different ideas into your own setting. By omitting or inventing a setting, you're given freedom as a writer to focus more on your characters or to create a setting that works well with your chosen plot and characters.
By using these helpful tricks, picking a setting can be a much less daunting task than it might seem at first. If you have a helpful tip on how you choose your setting, do let us know in the comments!
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