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Terrie Farley Moran | Setting: Why Must The Story Be in This Place?

August 11, 2014

Terrie Farley MoranWELL READ, THEN DEADOr for me more personally the question is: Why does the story line in WELL READ, THEN DEAD fit so well on Estero Island in Fort Myers Beach?

Plot, character and setting are often referred to as the three-legged stool of story. I’ve heard writers fight over, er, discuss the preeminence of character over plot vs. plot over character, but no one seems to want to arm wrestle about the importance of setting. There are folks who think setting is nothing more than background. Not me. Setting may not be the heart and soul of a story but it is the floor, the roof and the walls that hold the characters and the plot enclosed and in touch.

And often the setting contributes to the plot. For example, the classic “stranded on an island” story Robinson Crusoe written by Daniel Defoe nearly three hundred years ago has been imitated dozens of time in print and on film but the story line is always about isolation and survival so it really couldn’t take place in say, Manhattan during rush hour.

When I decided I wanted to write a cozy mystery set in a bookstore/café, known as the Read ’Em and Eat, I knew I wanted it grounded in a place that would reflect the same relaxed and peaceful atmosphere at the Read ’Em and Eat itself. I looked to southwest Florida because I have family there and I knew my daughter cold help me find the perfect spot. I looked around and when my daughter suggested Fort Myers Beach, I knew at once that it was the setting I wanted.


Why, you ask? First of all Estero Island, Fort Myers Beach is seven or eight miles long and its western edge is a gorgeous beach of sugar fine sand. At the north end of the island is the tranquil Bowditch Point Park while at the south end travelers can cross into the charmingly named Lovers Key State Park. And along the east boundary of the island is gorgeous foliage from sea grapes and palm trees to beach grass and scrub pines. I can imagine so many things for my characters to do in such an agreeable environment.


And Fort Myers Beach has a great sense of humor as shown by the fact that it has it’s very own Times Square because, hey it’s a square right off the beach and in its center—a clock—TA DA! Times Square.
Fort Myers Beach also has a sense of self and its place in history. The Mound House sits atop an ancient Calusa Indian Mound. It is estimated that the mound’s construction started in 100 B.C. The mounds in coastal Florida created high ground for the native people to live on during flooding seasons. Then there is the Shrimp Festival, homage to a time when Fort Myers Beach was a major shrimp supplier.

So with this unique history and geography abounding I thought that Fort Myers Beach would be the perfect home for Sassy Cabot, Bridgy Mayfield and all the characters that pass through the Read ’Em and Eat. When you read WELL READ, THEN DEAD, let me know if you agree.

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