Kat Martin: What Makes a Good Setting For a Story?

As many of you know, the fourth book in my Raines of Wind Canyon series, AGAINST THE STORM, will be out the end of October.  The book is set in the hustling, International port city of Houston, Texas. 

There are several factors that helped me choose that location for the story.  Being plot-oriented, I usually work through the story from start to finish, then figure out where the best place is going to be for that story to work.

Sometimes, however, as happened with AGAINST THE STORM, the character determined the setting. 

For instance, in the first book in the series, AGAINST THE WIND, Jackson Raines, the hero, lives in the fictional rural town of Wind Canyon, Wyoming.  AGAINST THE FIRE, his brother Gabe’s story, was set in Dallas, and AGAINST THE LAW was set in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Trace Rawlins, the hero of AGAINST THE STORM, first appears in AGAINST THE LAW.  He’s a former Army Ranger buddy of Dev Raines.  Dev solicits Trace’s help to rescue a little girl who’s been kidnapped and taken to Mexico.  The moment Trace entered the story, I knew I had to write about this cowboy hunk and find the right woman for him.

Which meant, since Trace lived in Houston in LAW, Houston had to be the setting for the book.

Fortunately, a couple of years back, my husband and I lived in Houstonfor several months.  I grew to know my way around town, to know the restaurants and the shopping, to become familiar with the atmosphere of the city, which is amazingly small-town, considering the population. 

Atlas Security, Trace’s company, became the focal point of the story and will be the setting for other AGAINST books yet to come. 

But I digress.

The point is, the setting wasn’t picked by me, it was picked by a character who lived there.

Since my books have always spanned a number of different locals, it helps that my husband and I travel quite a lot.  We know our way around the country and have lived and worked in a number of different places. 

Even if you haven’t been to a place for ten or twenty years, once you begin the research, it all comes flooding back.  The sights, the sounds, the smells, the sorts of people you encounter.  To help, I use Google Maps extensively.  They have street maps and satellite photos of different areas, and even cameras in various locations so you can actually see what it looks like!  Pretty amazing stuff.

Actually going there, of course, is the best way to chose a location.  And I truly believe there are places you really can’t write about without seeing them.  For me that was Europe.  Until I actually traveled overseas, I couldn’t image cities and towns that went that far back in time. Paris, London, Amsterdam and the rural communities in European countries are the sorts of places you really need to visit in order to understand the way people in those areas live. 

If you can’t go, try to choose a location that fits your story and that you can relate to. Wyomingwas easy for me since I live inMontana.  Better yet, I’ve been there a number of times.  But even if I hadn’t been there before, it wouldn’t have been a big reach for me.

So pick a place that fits your character, your story, and is a place you know or can relate to.  Aside from that, have fun with it!  If you do, it will show in your writing and your readers will have fun, too.

Hope you enjoy my Houston cowboy, Trace Rawlins, in AGAINST THE STORM, and watch for other books in the series. 

I will be giving away 2 prizes! A copy of AGAINST THE STORM  and a copy of the AGAINST THE WIND (Audiobook). Be sure to comment on my blog for a chance to WIN!

Very best and happy reading,   kat

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32 thoughts on “Kat Martin: What Makes a Good Setting For a Story?”

  1. Hi Kat, welcome back to the junction. I love the cover of your new book and can’t wait to read it! Who can resist a hunk like Trace?

    Thank you for sharing your ideas and thoughts about settings.

    Take care and give my best to Larry!

  2. Great post,,enjoyed it,glad you came by,,love the cover of the book also,sounds like some yummy reading thanks

  3. Hi Kat,

    It’s amazing how characters often choose the setting for a story. Just their personality can lead to a certain city or rural area.

    Thank you for sharing your insights into settings.

    Love the cover of your new book and the story sounds as great as the others in the series. Can’t wait to read it!

    –Kirsten

  4. Kat, airport setting? Doesn’t sound like a Halloween horror book. 8>) Should I ever try to write, I hope my characters choose Europe, but we’re getting there by boat.

    Best wishes for success of Against The Storm.

  5. I love your books and I can see why traveling to a place would also help write about it. I could never write a book so I admire anyone that does. I don’t travel much but do visit a lot of places in books. Thanks for sharing your books with us today.

  6. Welcome back, Kat! We always love to have you visit us. I’ve always been a firm believer that I can’t write about something I’ve never seen. I have to walk to the land, smell the air, feel the history. I have to know what grows there and a little about the kind of people inhabit the area. I do think it makes a big difference. I can add little details that make the story much deeper.

    Wishing you lots of success with your books. What a great cover for Against the Storm! Very nice. There’s just something about a cowboy and his hat. I like how it shades his face. To me it says he has secrets.

  7. Good morning ya’ll! Hi, Margaret! Great to be back. Super comments today…Everybody seems to love the cover–which is my all-time favorite…saying something when you’ve had over 50 books! The next two are gorgeous as well. But I do agree there is something about a cowboy and his hat…I love it when my husband wears one.

  8. Welcome Kat! I have read a few of your historical romances and enjoyed them, but have yet to try your contemporary romantic suspense. I will have to do so and it makes me curious to see what will be the same and what differs. I’m sure whatever the genre the story will still be great.

  9. Hey, Kat, welcome back to Wildflower Junction. Add me to the “cover lovers” for Against the Storm! MAN, I want to know all about Trace! I’ve never written a contemporary western. Seems all my contemporary stories involve some kind of undercover agents, but no cowboys. Hadn’t thought of that until I read your post. This book sounds great and I’m looking forward to picking it up and reading it. It’s good to have you back with us again!
    Cheryl P.

  10. Love the Cover! I really enjoyed the last book of yours that I read and I will add this one to my list.

  11. Have read the previous books in this series and loved them. Am looking forward to reading Against the Storm.

  12. Hi Kat and welcome back to the Junction! I’m sitting in my old college town, getting ready for the closing festivities for my *gulp* 30th college reunion. Yikes! Lots of fun, but you’re right, being here brings back all these memories, much like when I write a book set in a locale I’m familiar with. Congrats on Against the Storm. I’m looking forward to it!

  13. Enjoyed your blog today. I’m adding your book to my list of books to get the next time I’m at the bookstore. Thanks for the info…it will help when I read the story.

  14. Wow,a see there are quite a few writers in your group. Is everyone her a writer? If so, good luck with your books…this one is officially out on Oct 25. Its really the first time I’ve had a kind of delivery date. I’m hoping it will help with the bestsellers lists. Those are definitely a love/hate situation. hoping this one does welll and that you all enjoy! kat

  15. I have enjoyed your historicals but have not yet read your contemporary books. I need to finish getting this series. I like to wait until the series is out before reading it. That way I can read it through and keep the story line and characters fresh in my mind.

    As a reader, going there adds so much to the story. Whenever we travel I select books set in that area to read on the trip. In March we went to New Orleans. I got Jennifer Blakes’s MASTERS AT ARMS series. I read 2 before we left, almost 2 while there, and finished the others when I got home. What a difference it made. While there I looked for places mentioned. After we got home it was great to read a scene and know exactly where the character was standing. It definitely made it much more real. After I got back, I picked up 13 1/2 by Nevada Barr (great contemporary suspense) not realizing it was set in NOLA. Having been there added so much to the story. I knew where they were, not having to translate back to a the 1840’s version of the city. We hope to go back in January, and I have Stella Cameron’s paranormal series set there to read for that trip.

    For your AGAINST series, I have been to Wyoming and Arizona. Havent bee to Houston, but have been to Dallas/Ft. Worth, Tyler, Austin, and San Antonio. I will have the feel of the locations.

    I hope the release of AGAINST THE STORM goes well. I’ll be curious to see what the next one is about.

  16. You can be assured of a sale of Against The Storm
    to this reader. I am a native and a life-long resident of Houston. Whenever I come across a
    book set here, it automatically is added to my
    to-be-purchased list. It sounds like a book that
    I will really enjoy. Thanks for visiting today!

    Pat Cochran

  17. Hi Kat, I read Against the Fire and Against the Wind and can’t wait to read more of series. Also read Devil’s Prize, Heart of Honors and The Christmas Clock. Love your books. Thanks..
    I can understand why visiting the settings would make it easier to write about. The visuals can help in your descriptions of the area. Sights, sounds and smells can be important to the story. Trying to use info only can lead to errors which someone will be sure to catch. lol

  18. Kat,

    I love your books….Yes it is good to visit the setting so you can see it visually in your mind…I know “Against the Storm” will sell very well….Living in AZ it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen..

    Good luck

    Melinda

  19. It’s interesting to know why an author chooses one city vs another for the setting of their story. I agree familiarity with the locale certainly would help with the description of the setting and its details. I never even thought about a character choosing the setting.

    I’ve never been to Houston or any city in Texas. I love Montana and Wyoming. We went to Glacier, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons on a honeymoon camping trip. Great memories!

    I’m looking forward to reading your Against series.

    Loved the Bride series: Royal, Reese etc

  20. I love reading the backstory of how a setting to the story comes about. Thanks for sharing. Cannot wait to read ATS.

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