Location, Location, Location: Details for a Manuscript

Do you create your location first or do you write a scene first?

For a novel, I decide on the location before I start writing. My first three novels take place in a fictitious ski resort in British Columbia, Canada. The fourth novel takes place in the Bahamas. I chose the location first because I wanted to write about people who live in isolated places.

Some scenes dictate a location, but for others, I might write the scene and then chose a location. I keep track of locations in a spreadsheet. This helps me avoid using one place to often. Believe it or not, in a ski resort not everything happens on the mountain.

If I have a scene written and haven’t chosen a location, I do this by looking at the mood of the scene. Is is romantic, frightening, funny, awkward?  I think about where in my created world the scene will have the greatest impact. Then I add the details.

When reviewing a manuscript, I check for the empty stage syndrome. Did I get carried away with action or dialogue and not describe the location? If I did, I work on describing the location. Sometimes at this stage I drop a clue or a red herring based on location.

Do you decide on location first or write a scene first?

Thanks for reading . . .

4 thoughts on “Location, Location, Location: Details for a Manuscript

  1. I usually have the setting in mind before I start writing. Actually, establishing setting is one of my weaknesses, so perhaps I should think about it even more before beginning. Thanks for the tip!


  2. Since my characters like to interact with their surroundings, I find it hard to write anything without a setting. I have occasionally ended up with the scene set in the wrong place though! When that happens I try to discover what it is that drew me to that setting, and transfer it to the new location. An apartment was changed to a beach house. A French manor became an abandoned mission.
    I like your idea of logging locations on a spreadsheet! It reminds me of a travel journal. 🙂


    1. Hey Kirsten, I never thought of the spreadsheet as a travel journal, but you’re right. In my fourth novel the main characters travel through the Bahamian islands, so I guess it is their journal. It’s a nice way to look at it. I agree that it’s okay to change where a scene takes place. Sometimes it just demands somewhere else. I also change scene locations if my spreadsheet tells me I’ve too many scenes in one location.


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