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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Is Setting Relevant?

I've been letting this thought stew for a little while. I asked a few people for a critique on my synopsis (for which I am extremely grateful!) and I got one comment I didn't quite 'get.' Next to the the place where I had said "Buffalo-area church" someone had said, "not relevant."

Not relevant? Since when is the setting of a cozy mystery not relevant?

So I did what any beginning writer would do. I took it out. Then I put it back in. Then I took it out again. Then I ranted that, of course it is relevant. Then I looked around and found other examples of people including their locations in their synopses. And more online critiques of synopses where people were told their locations were not relevant.

And then... I took some advice. Uncle Jim (known for his online course on the AW message board) has often said to listen when your readers tell you something is wrong, but don't believe them when they tell you what is wrong. Yes, there was a problem with my setting. And the problem wasn't that setting is irrelevant. Setting is very important in a cozy mystery--often a character in itself. My problem was that I had incorrectly identified my setting.

My book doesn't take place in Buffalo. It takes place in a small, semi-rural church near Buffalo. The church is the setting, not the geographical region.

So what did I end of saying? I went with small, semi-rural church, which is a more accurate depiction of my setting than what I had originally.

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