Everyone thinks long and hard about the setting before they sit down to write. For many, the setting becomes as much a character as it is the backdrop. THE MILANESE STARS, my latest book from Touchpoint Press is set in Milan. A city that is so unique that it did end up being more than just the setting in my book.
As I wrote, this manuscript evolved simply because the location became part of many scenes. This book has been through a revise and resubmit phase, and that was the time, I took a step back and wrote in the city. Its grand Cathedral or Duomo was part of the tour that the main lead protagonist, Vita takes Samuel, to help him get familiar with the city.
They visit a derby match between Inter and AC Milan. This is epic in Milan and the passion for football helped me write another dimension to my character. Vita is also a barista, a connoisseur of food and so I added in the Slow Food Movement in Italy which has taken the country by storm to stem the tide of fast food. It was a way of adding another layer to her profession as a barista.
Then there was Monumental Cemetery. Most of this book revolves around the robbery of pink diamonds or “The Milanese Stars” as revenge for an innocent death. Grief is central to the story and to each of the burglars. So much so, a trip to the beautiful cemetery of sculptured angels, parents, and children watching over their loved ones allowed me to add grief without having to say it.
Milan’s piazzas, terrace gardens, shopping district and food helped me add layers to the characters that otherwise would have been hobbies or just character traits. My editor often underlines sentences and asks, “how does this move the story forward?”
Ask yourself the same question while you write. Your setting should help you move the story along. Many authors have capitalized setting, using its traditions, its conventions and its characteristics. Take Leo Tolstoy’s Anne Karenina, Arundhati Roy’s The God Of Small Things and many others.
For THE MILANESE STARS, I use the feast of the Assumption, or the Ferragosto as the climax, where the entire city is celebrating, and the burglars finally exit the city, unnoticed amidst all the revelry. The Ferragosto is a day of fireworks and parades. It is a bank holiday too.
The same goes for history. Does the history of the place have anything to do with your story? As far as history is concerned, Antwerp would have been a better location. It’s been the target of many diamond heists over the years because it is a center for the processing and storage of diamonds. But Milan had a history of burglary. The Damiani showroom heist was one such example, where a woman simply drilled into the boutique for 4 weeks. And she got away with a 20 million haul. So it wasn’t unrealistic to depict my own heist here.
My tips for those who haven’t given setting much thought:
- Look at the location through your character’s eyes.
- What elements can you add that will support your characters profession, past, present, passion, emotion, and motive?
- Can any traditions or conventions form the skeleton of your story?
- Are there any special events or celebrations that can be woven into your story?
- Does the history of the place contribute to your plot?
What do you think of setting when you write fiction? I’d love to hear from you.
The Milanese stars are missing from the famous Buccatino boutique. When American insurance investigator, Samuel Keane is called in to liaise with the polizia, he finds the whole heist odd. Not only are the Milanese stars, a set of five pink diamonds, not listed in the inventory of stolen items, worse, none of the surrounding owners or passersby witnessed a thing.
Samuel is anxious to solve the case and partners with local café owner, Vita, who has a very good vantage point to watch Buccatino. Vita herself has quite the interest in Samuel. He’s a decent man, not to mention delicious, and he’s smart. But the last thing she wants is to be caught. After all, Vita has planned the heist for years. Five to be exact. The only thing she didn’t plan is falling in love with the young American.
As Samuel digs further into the history of the stars, he discovers Vita’s friends and her physically challenged sister are all connected to them. He learns of Vita’s past and the loneliness she’s resigned herself to in an effort to protect herself from loss. Samuel also learns Don Giovanni, proprietor of Buccatino, is no ordinary man. He’s a local Mafioso and will stop at nothing till he gets the stars.
The more Samuel investigates, the more dangers he and Vita face. Can he solve the case and what will happen with Vita? What will he do when we learns the heist of the decade isn’t about stealing pink diamonds… it’s about settling the score