Thursday, March 17, 2011

Guest Post: Marilyn Meredith on Place

Marilyn Merdith, Author of Angel Lost

"A pervert threatens women joggers on the beach, a robber threatens wealthy homes on the bluff, and an angel watches over over the townspeople from a downtown window.  F. M. Merediths' latest Rocky Bluff P. D. novel is a gentle human drama about loneliness and change, through which the reader is pulled, page after page, by an assortment of compelling criminal curiosities." -- C. N. Nevets

In the past few weeks, I’ve read some books by fairly new authors. In a few there has been an important element missing, the sense of place. Some of my favorite books are those that I feel like I know exactly what the area looks like where the characters are living, working, talking, and experiencing the things that are going on with and around them.

What I try to do when I’m writing a scene is to see it through the eyes of my point-of-view character. (In my Rocky Bluff P.D. series the POV character may change from scene to scene.) I want to be sure that the reader knows where that character is, what the place is like, perhaps the smells, and of course the weather.

In Angel Lost a lot of the action takes place during foggy mornings. Fog is wonderful for setting a mysterious scene. It swirls around, it hides what’s coming, and it can be frustrating. I’ve lived in a beach community much like Rocky Bluff and the fog is relentless at certain times of the year as it rolls in from the ocean and sometime seems to swallow up everything around.

Rocky Bluff is a beach community. The heroine of this story, Stacey Wilbur, must jog along the beach in the fog in an effort to catch a man who exposes himself to female runners. One of the members of my critique group gave me suggestions about how that would feel. And of course, anytime you’re near the ocean you’re going to smell the saltiness and hear the waves crashing against the shore. The sound of the waves blurs other noises, including if anyone is coming towards you on the beach.

The town of Rocky Bluff is not a real town, but I can see what it looks like in my imagination. A stream bed runs beside a rocky bluff that rises up like a cliff. On top of the bluff are expensive homes. They have no beach access, but many have spectacular ocean views.

In the older part of town, beach cottages, many in disrepair, are closest to the shore. The downtown areas with the shops and restaurants are located on the main drag, Valley Blvd. The rest of the town rises up the hillside with the freeway passing over. Orange groves and ranches are on the other side.

The police department is not only understaffed but hasn’t been upgraded with any of the new equipment the larger police departments have access to. Even the Chief’s Office is shabby, furnished with items the Chief has brought from his own home. (This whole situation makes it necessary for the RBPD to solve crimes in the old fashioned way—investigating and asking lots of questions. When necessary, outsiders will be called in to help.

When Stacey and her fiancĂ©, Detective Doug Milligan, marry, they plan to live in Doug’s small Victorian, with its enclosed front porch and only two upstairs bedrooms. This means Doug’s renter, Officer Gordon Butler must find a new place to live as Stacey’s young son, Davey will need his own room.

Stacey has her dress for the wedding, a light blue gown of material that she describes as gossamer. Her dream for the ceremony includes the decorations for the church.

As things happen in the story, I hope that I’ve given enough of a description of the places that the reader can imagine much the same as what I envisioned in my mind as I wrote.

Even if an author is writing about a real place, not everyone has visited so it’s necessary to describe enough that the reader can visualize what the area looks like the characters inhabit. Sometimes, the setting can almost seem like another character. I hope that’s what I’ve done in Angel Lost.

Angel Lost will be available this month at the usual places, and for an autographed copy from my website and it will soon be available on Kindle and for other e-book readers.

F.M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith

Angel Lost

As plans for her perfect wedding fill her mind, Officer Stacey Wilbur is sent to trap a flasher, the new hire realizes Rocky Bluff P.D. is not the answer to his problems, Abel Navarro’s can’t concentrate on the job because of worry about his mother, Officer Gordon Butler has his usual upsets, the sudden appearance of an angel in the window of a furniture store captures everyone’s imagination and causes problems for RBPD, and then the worst possible happens—will Stacey and Doug’s wedding take place?

F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of nearly thirty published novels. Her latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, from Oak Tree Press, is Angel Lost. Marilyn is a member of Writers of Kern, EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and her blog at


  1. Thank you, Nevets, for hosting me today. As usual I'm never quite sure what I've written when I'm on a blog tour so it's fun to read again what I sent along. It's always an honor to be a guest here.


  2. Oh dear. Now I'm all anxious that I haven't given my readers enough of a sense of place in my novel, and it's to late too change it.

    Well, this is a point I'm going to have to tuck away in my writer's cupboard in my brain and remember for the next story! An interesting post thanks Marilyn.
    Judy (South Africa)

  3. Thanks for hosting, Marilyn today. Having read all the Rocky Bluff books, I can say, though I've never been to CA, I feel familiar with it thanks to these books.

    Keep up the great work, Marilyn.

    There's a trailer for this book up on YouTube for anyone who is interested. You can find it at

    Thanks again.


  4. Marilyn, great thoughts! I often feel like this is something I could work more on my writing. Sometimes my story is all about the place, sometimes not. I guess it depends on what focus I want, but I think writing can always benefit from a sense of place. Great post!

  5. Marilyn~ Great thoughts. I really like this point-
    "Even if an author is writing about a real place, not everyone has visited so it’s necessary to describe enough that the reader can visualize what the area looks like the characters inhabit."

    I'll have to keep that in mind.

    C.N. Thanks for hosting!

  6. These setting descriptions immediately make me want to read this book! And made me realize that I need to work a lot more on a sense of place in my book. THANKS!

  7. Thanks for the reminders about the importance of setting! I think it's hard to strike a balance between giving too much detail (slowing the story) and not giving enough, so that the story is bland and nebulous. My favorite authors manage to convey a sense of place with just a few carefully chosen details. Someday, I hope to be able to manage that as skillfully in my own writing!

  8. Marilyn, thanks so much for this guest post. I always love hearing what you have to say, and in this case you really struck at what I consider one of the points-needing-growth in my own writing. I like to think I do fair with the place-in-the-moment, but I know my writing would benefit from a much strong sense of place-as-anchor.

    @Judy - Yeah, sometimes we learn the lessons for the next novel, rather than for this one. That used to bother me until I decided that, probably, for the rest of my life, the next one will always intend to be better than this one.

    @Cheryl - My pleasure, thanks for offering me the opportunity! I asked Mariliyn to talk about this precisely because I've never been near the places she writes in either of her mystery series, but just from her novels, I feel like I understand something about them.

    @Michelle - Place is difficult in thrillers because the action moves so much and it's difficult in fantasy because the reader has to extend to relate. I think there are at least moments in everything of yours I've read where I get to experience a strong sense of place.

    @Summer - I used to go overboard on that and have probably overcompensated. Marilyn's post is a great reminder to me that I really need to find a balancing point.

    @Margo - Marilyn's writing is excellent at giving you a feel for the locale.

    @Kate - Balance. Yes! Why is it so elusive?

  9. Marilyn, I couldn't agree with your more about describing novel settings, although as briefly as possible. I grew up in southern California and practically lived at the beaches as a teen, but for someone who has never been there, it would be hard to imagine the beauty and fury of the ocean--especially following the horror of the tsunamis.

  10. Great post! A sense of place does add to a story--I definitely have to keep that in mind when I'm writing.

    Thanks for hosting, Nevets!

  11. I tend to struggle with grounding my characters, but I have to make certain that the reader knows where they are.

    Otherwise, it would be impossible to keep up with the story.

    Great post. All the best with your new novel, Marilyn!


  12. Oh, my goodness, I was only away for a few hours writing and look what I came back too, wow! Thanks folks for your comments.

    Judy, I'm waving to you all the way in South Africa.

    Hi, Cheryl.

    Michelle, there's so much to setting that can be used to enrich your story.

    Summer, thank you.

    Hi, Margo, glad you appreciated what I wrote for today.

    Nevets, thanks again for having me. People ask which of my books is my favorite, it's always the last one I've written.

    Hi, Jean, I used to love swimming in the ocean, but we have to recognize how powerful it is, definitely saw it with the videos of the tsunamis.

    Thanks for your comments, Golden Eagle.

    Misha, thanks for stopping by.

  13. What a great post about setting! And I love the sound of your book, Marilyn.

  14. Hi Rosemary, I do hope that those who read the book will enjoy it.

  15. Excellent post. You're spot on about needing a sense of place in your stories. Very true.

  16. @Jean - I like you put that: thoroughly but briefly. It's definitely a skill!

    @G'Eagle - Always improving, aren't you? :)

    @Misha - I think that's true. Ungrounded stories are harder to keep up with it. It's like driving on bald tires.

    @Marilyn - It's a great group of people, isn't it? :-D

    @Rosemary - You definitely want to check out this book.

    @VR - Marilyn's guest posts are always spot on! She's awesome like that!

  17. Marilyn, Great post! I really enjoy a story when I can picture it in my mind while I read. And it the author can create a sense of smells and so on, so much the better. I just ordered Angel Lost and I can't wait to read it.


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