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Graveyards, Hotels, and Asylums! Oh, my!

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One of my favorite genres is horror. Give me zombies, monsters, and ghosts galore. The one element that can make or break a great horror novel is the setting. There is nothing scarier than a haunted hotel, or an abandoned mental hospital. Two of my favorite books, The Shining by Stephen King and Asylum by Madeleine Roux, are perfect examples.

Most everyone knows that the real life Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado was Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining. Having recently visited the Stanley, I can see how it stimulated King’s imagination. The picturesque landscape, the history, and the tragedies of the Stanley are an inevitable muse for authors. Stephen King captured the creep factor and created an ingenious setting for a truly eerie ghost story. The hotel itself is one of the most important character in the novel.

Asylum by Madeleine Roux is another, more recent, example of a setting that makes the plot. When a university buys an old abandoned asylum and converts it into dorms for a summer session, ghosts of past residents mingle with the living. Not only did the asylum host the mentally ill and criminally insane, a mad doctor who experimented on his patients was in charge. If that’s not scary enough, high school students live there for a summer and the dead take over. Once again, the setting is as much of a character as the people are.

No matter what genre you’re writing, the setting needs to come alive. With a great setting, you can create an atmosphere and emotionally charge the reader.

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