Portsea is a tiny little spot near the end of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.
For those not familiar with the geography of Victoria, Melbourne is situated at the top of a bay, called Port Phillip Bay. The Mornington Peninsula forms the east side of the bay and Portsea is right down the end, within sight of the tip of the western shore of the bay.
Portsea is within a couple of hours drive of Melbourne and I have had great fun going down there to do ‘research’. The picture above is from one of these jaunts. It is the Portsea Pub, which has been on this site since the 1920s and is a nice place for a beer and a burger and a think about one’s story.
I enjoyed going there so much, in fact, that I set a scene there; which just goes to show that providing beer and food is a good way to make friends with a writer…
The funny thing is, though, that I never intended to set my story here at all. I was going to set it in Lorne, which is another little seaside town in Victoria (although in the opposite direction from Melbourne). And the only reason I was going to set it there was because I was going to set a road accident on the extremely hairy (as in, hair-raising) road that snakes down the side of a hill into Lorne.
In the end, though, I decided to scratch the accident and when I did, Portsea suggested itself as an alternative with many things in its favour (and no, it wasn’t just about the beer). One of them was that I know the area better and can get to it more easily for purposes of soaking up details of landscape and atmosphere.
The story is now firmly and irretrievably set on the eastern side of the bay and has become more and more firmly rooted in its setting as it has developed. So much so, that the setting has in some ways helped to shape the story, which I find fascinating. It seems that all the agonising I did in the early stages over where to set it was not a waste of time, but necessary.
So my question for today is, how important is setting for you? As a reader (and as a writer, if you are one) do you like to get a real sense of place when you read (or write) a book? And do you prefer your settings real, or made up? Enquiring minds want to know…