When working with a location in your novel, it’s important to keep in mind a number of things:
1. The tone of the book: Where you set your novel can have an obvious impact on the overall atmosphere of the work. A centuries-old inn on a rocky and foggy New England coast may be better for establishing a gothic feel than the glittering streets of Miami. On the other hand, setting a novel in an unexpected locale, like Miami for a vampire story, may be provide novel ways for you to expand a mythology or create an alternate world.
2. Roadways and the native lingo: My husband just finished a book and said to me that it was obvious the writer was not a New Yorker, although apparently the main character in the book was supposed to be a New Yorker. How did hubby know that? The writer made references to roadways in a manner in which natives would not. For example, a reference to 95 when coming off the George Washington Bridge (aka the “GW” to a native). While it may be 95 on the map, most natives would equate that road with heading to the Turnpike (aka the New Jersey Turnpike). Another one to watch out for if you’re writing about New York City (aka Manhattan), Avenue of the Americas is the official name for 6th Avenue, but it’s rare for a New Yorker to call it Avenue of the Americas.
3. Foods: Food can add a great deal of color to your novel. For example, a reference to “tomato pie” would be appropriate for certain settings in New Jersey. What’s “tomato pie” you wonder? It’s a type of pizza and common in many areas (but not in New York City where it’s not common to refer to “pizza” as “tomato pie”). The reference is more common along the Jersey Shore and in Trenton, which is famous for its “tomatoe pie”. In the shore and Trenton areas, “tomato pie” is usually a thin crust pizza where the cheese goes on first and then the sauce.
4. Media attention: It sounds sanguine, but deciding where to set your story may help with getting media attention for your work. A local author setting a novel in a hometown location: Perfect for getting the attention of the local newspaper, community groups, etc. and setting up signings.
5. Local Customs and Superstitions: When choosing a location (or creating your own), are there any local customs or superstitions that you can include? A haunted house or site of buried treasure? A tale about the town’s founding or history? For example, while researching the area of the Jersey Shore where I’ve set SINS OF THE FLESH and STRONGER THAN SIN, I discovered that Captain Kidd anchored off what is now known as Sylvan Lake in Bradley Beach and buried part of his treasure between two trees near what is now known as Brinley Avenue. You can bet that will make it’s way into a book someday!
I hope these things help you with choosing and working with the location in your novel.