Setting as Character

A warm and hearty welcome to F.M. Meredith, aka Marilyn Meredith. This is her third, maybe fourth, visit here. I know that readers are always eager for her next title to come out and, luckily, we never have to wait for long. Today she introduces Unresolved, the latest in her Rocky Bluff P.D. series, and talks about setting as an actual character in her stories.

The setting for any book is important, and can be as important as the characters.

The Rocky Bluff P.D. is located in a small beach community somewhere between the Southern  California towns of Ventura and Santa Barbara. Though it has some of the features of real towns along the coast, it is entirely fictional.

However, it is very real to me. I can see the way the streets are laid out on the hillside as they progress down toward the main part of town and the ocean. I know what stores are at what end of the main street. Where the restaurants are, including McDonald’s, the location of the police department, the churches, the grocery store, and the campground at the southernmost end of the city limits. At the northern end, the bluff that gave the town its name rises above. This is where the most expensive homes are located.

On the other side of the 101 highway, the sharply sloping hillsides are covered by ranches and orange groves. An interesting trailer park is tucked away in a wooded area.

Things are changing though, the low income housing that once fronted the beach has all been taken down with three story condos taking their place.

Where people live can tell you a lot about them, and their homes are an important part of the setting.

Of course, the fact that the town is beside the Pacific Ocean is a huge factor in all the stories about Rocky Bluff. Because the town is beside the sea, fog often complicates life for the police officers and the people they serve and protect.

Where the action takes place and conversations are held are also setting, the reader needs to know where these things are going on.


Though most people might not think of setting as character, to a writer setting is as important.

A little about Unresolved, #13 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series:
The Rocky Bluff P.D. is underpaid and understaffed and when two dead bodies turn up, the department is stretched to the limit. The mayor is the first body discovered, the second an older woman whose death is caused in a bizarre manner. Because no one liked the mayor, including his estranged wife and the members of the city council, the suspects are many, but each one has an alibi.

Marilyn signing in Pismo Beach

F. M. Meredith lived for many years in a small beach community much like Rocky Bluff. She has many relatives and friends who are in law enforcement and share their experiences and expertise with her. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra.

Visit her at and her blog at

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Twitter: MarilynMeredith

Buy link for Unresolved:










Setting as Character — 14 Comments

  1. Thank you so much, Maggie, for letting me visit once again. I had fun writing this post–and the photo is of Ventura–a place similar to the one I’m writing about, though Rocky Bluff is much smaller.

  2. I agree, Marilyn. Setting is a character. I tend to “see” my settings in my mind as I write, whether it’s a fictional place or not. Interesting post.

  3. What I most love most is the incredible level of detail in Marilyn’s mind of the town of Rocky Bluff. I would imagine such knowledge is essential particularly in the case of a police procedural, since the police have to know the town as well as the author.

    Maggie, as for using Pinterest to showcase settings, I try to visit once a day to add to my boards. I don’t think of it as work–I think of it as a nice break in my day to look at pretty pictures. 🙂

    • Amy, good point about the police needing to know a town well. And in your stories the setting is every bit as important as your characters.

      I’m glad you enjoy Pinterest and I’ll definitely take a look at your boards. Maybe you’ll inspire me. But I’d rather get away from my computer on my breaks!

  4. Setting IS important. If I read a book and can’t figure out where it is all occurring, I get a little miffed. Descriptions of towns by the ocean are always so wonderful (if you describe them – fictional or real places) and you do a good job doing that in this series. In fact you describe some of the scenery right here on this post with the houses on the way down to the ocean.

    • This is an actual street in Ventura–but it is much like the ones in Rocky Bluff–though Rocky Bluff doesn’t have as many apartment houses. Thanks for the comment, Linda. You are so faithful.

    • Ventura is one of my favorite places. I once–eons ago when I lived in Oxnard–was a teacher at a day care center in East Ventura. My kids and I walked all over Ventura during summer time–I had the school age kids, 6-10. We go there every year for the PSWA board meetings.