These are my panel notes from the “Fantasy the World Over” panel at ConCarolinas 2015.
Panelists: Andi O’Conner, AJ Hartley, David B. Coe, Misty Massey, Faith Hunter
Question: How Important Is Setting?
AJH: June, A Perfect Storm, Cape Fear are all good examples of man against environment where the environment makes a big difference in the story. In big cities, the senses almost become their own characters.
DBC: Colonial Boston is a static place, but it constantly changes with the seasons.
MM: Some cities have distinct personalities.
AOC: Bring all your senses into your description, including how people act and how they interact. (Example: NYC vs. Central Park) Consider what you want your reader to see.
AJH: He has been in the U.S. for thirty years. You can use the past to anchor the city. A lot of America doesn’t have a living footprint to the cities because they’re so young. References “hotel culture,” Henry James. We have a historical rootlessness.
AJH: Be careful about stereotyping cities, dig deeper. History is present but largely ignored.
Question: Can you use setting to shape what you want the reader to experience?
AJ: Almost always writes from the perspective of someone who doesn’t live there.
DBC: Economics – NY, Boston are port cities; Chicago is a stock city – the mentality lurks below the surface.
FH/MM: War affects people and can make a quick difference.
AJH: New York has a cultural shadow from 9/11 that affects the people there.
FH: Couldn’t write about New York because she saw the WTC before it happened, but she didn’t live it. She feels she can’t do the city justice.
AJH: Conflicted attitude toward a place gives you more freedom as a storyteller. If you love it, you can’t be critical.
Question: What are some underused locations?
DBC: Boston (Colonial)
AOC: Use your imagination and see things where you are.
AJH: Writing about London scares the crap out of him because too many people know it too well.
AJH: Death in Paradise – similar to Castle – about an English detective in weird places. The POV of the main character shapes the setting.
MM: Jericho is a good example.
FH: Editors are looking for cities where you have the biggest sales.
AJH: When you say NY, people know what you mean. If it’s not a locale they know, it’s a strike against it.
DBC: Writing in Phoenix opens the door for a lot of imagery and metaphor.
MM: Last Call, Tim Powers
DBC: Richard Parks, Noir demon hunter in Japan
AOC: Terri Brooks, Elves of Sentra, armageddon setting in two series
AJH: Terri Pratchett