Time and Place in Novel Writing

The New York City Chapter of the Romance Writers Association just published my essay:

What does time and place mean to me?

By Barbara James


Our ststarting_over_frontories are universal in that they address our need for human connection.  Time and place, I believe, contextualize our stories in ways that help us reach our readers who find the time and place of our novels appealing.  But time and place is also about the author, who writes about the times and periods which interest them the most, whether because they have lived it, or they have fantasized about it.  Perhaps time and place is about creating an alternative reality where no one lives but where the human condition matters as well.

Although I read genres from a myriad of times and places, from the historical to the contemporary, I write exclusively in the contemporary, because I am interested in the human condition as experienced by people in the world of today.

Yet, at the same time, I’m aware of the ways in which I am influenced by my “time and place.”  I was born and raised in New York City, but I have also spent a lot of time in college towns working among young adults.  These are the environments I am most familiar with, and so my writing from the contexts of those times and places, seem in my view, more authentic as the time and place can then become its own character in a story.

How can a time and place become its own character?  It is about creating a world, the backdrop for the story and the action.  The places are fictionalized, but the props come out of a deep understanding of the social environments that ground the community of students, faculty, and staff on a college campus in a university town.

Our characters are not cardboard people.  They are meant to be presented as unique individuals with their own histories, needs, and interests.  These are expressed not just through the people they know, but in the ways they interact with the spaces that ground their characters.  Times and places provide the context for characters and their experiences.

Barbara James lives in Brooklyn, New York. She writes romances full of sweetness and heat.  Her first novel, Starting Over:  Rick, is available on Amazon.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.