8 Best Settings in Literature for Writers

Here are the eight best settings in literature for writers according to Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer, including Overlook Hotel, 221B Baker Street, and more.
Author:
Publish date:

While prepping for the upcoming Virtual Conference for Novelists, it occurred to me that I have my favorite heroes and villains of literature. But what about the best settings in literature?

Image placeholder title

I mean, the Harry Potter series of books would be so different without Hogwarts. Winston's experiences in 1984 wouldn't have been quite the same in Las Vegas as Oceania. And don't even get me started on Middle Earth.

So let's take a look at the best settings in literature. And be sure to let me know which places I forgot to mention that are tops on your list.

*****

Build Your Novel Scene by Scene

Build Your Novel Scene by Scene

If you want to learn how to write a story, but aren’t quite ready yet to hunker down and write 10,000 words or so a week, this is the course for you. Build Your Novel Scene by Scene will offer you the impetus, the guidance, the support, and the deadline you need to finally stop talking, start writing, and, ultimately, complete that novel you always said you wanted to write.

Click to continue.

*****

Best Settings in Literature

Hogwarts - Harry Potter series

Okay, I mentioned it first in the intro paragraph (and 7 books in my 30-book challenge list are Potter novels). So yeah, Hogwarts, that fantastic school of witchcraft and wizardry is tops on my list. A school filled with witches and wizards is pretty cool on its own. But there are ghosts, a poltergeist, secret rooms (and passages), incredible (and dangerous) beasts of all sizes, elves, moving staircases, talking portraits (and hats), and plenty more. And that's just the actual school building. There's, of course, the school grounds, including a crazy forest and lake that are filled with magic too! It's really a character in its own right.

Overlook Hotel - The Shining

Speaking of settings that are characters, the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's The Shining is a special sort of evil. It has a troubled history that includes deaths of guests and a fatal incident of cabin fever involving a former caretaker who murdered his family. Of course, the novel involves a new caretaker (a recovering alcoholic with anger issues) occupying the hotel during the winter months with his family. What could go wrong? A lot if the spirits in the Overlook Hotel have their way.

Wonderland - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

This story begins with a bored 7-year-old girl named Alice, who follows a walking and talking White Rabbit down into a rabbit hole, which leads to the not-so-boring Wonderland. In Wonderland, Alice meets the Cheshire Cat, a hookah-smoking Caterpillar, the Hatter, and The Queen of Hearts. Peter Pan's Neverland and Dorothy's Oz are great settings too, but Wonderland appeared first and still feels contemporary today.

Gotham City - Batman

If there's one place I know I never wanted to visit as a kid, it was Gotham City. I had no idea where it was located on the map, but I knew (I knew!) that everyone who walked the streets in Gotham City was a shortcut through an alleyway away from being mugged and fatally shot. Or kidnapped. Or sprayed with some chemical agent concocted by the Joker, Scarecrow, or the Riddler. But then again, you can't have comics' greatest superhero without the comics' most off-kilter city to protect. Gotham City needs Batman, and Batman needs Gotham City.

Middle Earth - The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Okay, so Middle Earth is actually like an entire planet (or continent or country or something). It's pretty big and filled with places. The Shire, Rivendell, Mordor, that place where the Balrog shall not pass. Tolkien took world-building to the next level, and it makes all his stories that much more immersive and believable.

Oceania - 1984

In 1984, Winston Smith lives in the totalitarian super state of Oceania, which is in perpetual war with two other totalitarian super states: Eurasia and Eastasia. While readers see the world through Winston's eyes, it's pretty much implied that life is the same in these other two territories. Winston's world is filled with contradictory state messages, state surveillance, and an intense loathing of individualism. Orwell's early working title of The Last Man in Europe gives a good sense of how Winston is destined to fight against his surroundings, which are working incessantly to drive the humanity out of him.

(12 Thought-Provoking Quotes From 1984, by George Orwell.)

221B Baker Street - Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is the most popular detective of literature, and he lives at 221B Baker Street. At times, Dr. John H. Watson rooms with him, and landlady Mrs. Hudson maintains the lodgings. While London and the surrounding areas are surely an important setting for the Holmes stories, he often uses 221B Baker Street as his home base.

Efrafa - Watership Down

Rabbits journey to several warrens and establish roots in their new home of Watership Down. But the desolation of Efrafa is what stuck with me in this novel. Efrafa is a sort of Oceania in which everyone is monitored, marked, and allowed above ground only during very regimented times. And its leader, General Woundwort, is so fixated on the Efrafan way of life that he pursues anyone who tries to upset his ordered world...or leave it.

These are my eight favorite settings, but I realize there are so many more. Share your favorites in the comments below. Maybe Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, Christopher Robin's Hundred Acre Wood, or Heathcliff's Wuthering Heights.

John B. Thompson | Book Wars

John B. Thompson: On Researching Changes in the Book Publishing Industry

John B. Thompson, author of the new book Book Wars, shares the research that went into his account of how the digital revolution changed publishing for readers and writers.

From Script

Supporting AAPI Storytellers and Tapping into Mythical World Building (From Script)

In this week’s round-up from ScriptMag.com, meet South-East-Asian-American filmmakers and screenwriters, plus interviews with screenwriter Emma Needell and comic book writer/artist Matt Kindt, TV medical advisor Dr. Oren Gottfried, and more!

What Is a Personal Essay in Writing?

What Is a Personal Essay in Writing?

In this post, we look at what a personal essay (also known as the narrative essay) is, including what makes it different from other types of fiction and nonfiction writing, examples of effective personal essays, and more.

FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

If your character isn't a trained fighter but the scene calls for a fight, how can you make the scene realistic? Author and trained fighter Carla Hoch has the answers for writers here.

April PAD Challenge

30 Poetry Prompts for the 2021 April PAD Challenge

Find all 30 poetry prompts for the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge in this post.

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

Mia P. Manansala, author of Arsenic & Adobo, explains how writers can help their main character solve a mystery when they're the prime suspect.

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is not using your spare 15 minutes.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, invite an unexpected visitor into your story.

7 Tips for Writing a Near Future Dystopian Novel

7 Tips for Writing a Near-Future Dystopian Novel

In this article, debut author Christina Sweeney-Baird explains how writers can expertly craft a near-future dystopian novel.