by Tegwyn Hughes, Canada Blogger jaBlog!
Though you might be tempted to follow the clichés and set your next story in a small town or big city without much description, it might surprise you how much of a difference a good setting can make. A murder mystery can be an interesting read, but when it happens on a cruise ship, the characters and events involved are given a fun twist that sets the story apart from others.
Diverse settings like these can be found all over the world, but in this article I’ll be concentrating on one country in particular: Canada. Specifically, I’ll be listing the 5 best Canadian story settings to write about in this beautiful nation.
1. The Coast of Newfoundland
Most people may have heard of the stereotypical Canadian accent, eh? This is actually the Newfoundland accent––a Scottish and Irish sounding voice that is dubbed by Canadians in other provinces as the “Newfie” accent. This accent alone can make a story unique, but the entire province of Newfoundland is ripe with scenery, imagery, and interesting settings for a good story.
Newfoundland culture is influenced greatly by its geography––the closeness to the ocean of many communities means that fishing is the main trade for citizens. Houses right on the water, an abundance of boats, and a certain small-town feeling go hand-in-hand with the profession.
In a story, any plot could be changed by the smallness of Newfoundland fishing communities, the unity with the ocean, or even the dogs (look them up; they’re adorable). A romance novel? The love interest can work on a fishing boat and be lost at sea for months before being reunited with the main character.
2. The Heart of Quebec
Nothing spices up a story more than a foreign language––French, to be exact. This won’t be the romantic French you see in France, though. Quebecois French is fast, colloquial, and really hard to understand. The culture is about the same, too.
If the language change isn’t enough uniqueness for you, Quebec is incredibly different from the rest of Canada in a ton of other ways. Montreal, Quebec’s largest city, prides itself on multiculturalism and acceptance. Quebec City, the capital, has an amazing mixture of historic neighbourhoods and a booming city scene. In northern Quebec, most of the population is First Nations, bordering the Hudson’s Bay.
Your story could take on any of these diverse communities to enrich a plot. Throw in some French slang, a dance party or two, and you have the perfect recipe for an unusual story.
3. The Plains of Saskatchewan
Nothing can be more exciting than nothing. If you want to really challenge yourself, and your story, Saskatchewan is a good place to start. Producing ten percent of the world’s total exported wheat, you can guess what is found everywhere in this province––acres upon acres of farm fields.
Saskatchewan is a setting that has been mostly untouched by authors. The Wikipedia page about stories set in this province boasts twelve works, many of which are set in the past. Personally, I think Saskatchewan is more than meets the eye, and it provides the perfect story setting.
Regina, the capital of this province, has a population of 232,090, a strong art scene, and huge parks that would blow your mind. Not to mention its crime rate, one of the highest in Canada, making it the perfect scene for a mystery.
Even a farm in Saskatchewan is an interesting place to set a story. The characters could have chores in the farm, an animal friend, and a huge backyard to play in. Maybe even a rivalry with the farm next door!
4. The Alberta Oil Scene
The province of Alberta may have rodeos and cowboys, but there is another setting that is much more unique: oil towns. These are communities grown around oils sands, places where oil is the easiest to extract from the ground. These communities may start as housing for workers and their families but evolve to support their day-to-day lives. Shops open, schools are established, and a local government may come into place.
One example of this kind of community is Fort McMurray, which has gone from having a population of 926 in the 1950’s, to 61,374 people in 2011. This is one of the most prosperous oil extraction communities, and it became an official city in 1980.
Recent events may put these kinds of communities in jeopardy, which could make for a very interesting plot to a story. This year, oil prices around the world dropped, meaning that the companies that extract and sell oil would be making less of a profit. This profit, which the government receives a portion of, was included in Alberta’s budget, meaning that the government is now out a lot of money. They even estimate that Alberta could be $500 million dollars in debt next year because of this.
A story based in an oiling community struggling with losing jobs and income would be a very interesting read. Using the oil sands as a backdrop, any story could be made more unique.
5. Canada’s West Coast
British Columbia is the province where I was born, and it’s where Laura Thomas lives, so this part of the article may be a little biased, but the coast of BC is one of Canada’s most beautiful places. You may be saying, “The coast? Didn’t we just talk about the coast?” However, the east and west coasts of Canada are so different that they each deserve their own section.
Having grown up on Vancouver Island, a two hour ferry ride away from the coast, I can tell you that western Canada’s best trait is the amazing weather. Right now, in February, this part of B.C. is just breaking into spring, while other regions in Canada have a month or two left of winter to suffer through. Yes, this temperate climate comes with its negatives, mostly an incredible amount of rain throughout the year, but I’d take rain over a snowstorm any day. This climate also means that we can grow crops that you might grow in Greece, like olives or lemons. Compared to our usual crop of grain and beans, that’s pretty cool.
The beaches here are just as amazing, ideal for surfing, whale watching, or just swimming. I remember going out onto Qualicum Beach with my grandparents, a minute’s walk from their house, as a little kid and picking up pebbles, exploring driftwood, and watching the waves. A Tofino beach was actually featured on the recent season of The Amazing Race Canada, where teams learnt about the fishing industry and tried their hands at surfing a wave.
Any story that happens to be on the beach can add romance or even danger to a story. Your characters could find themselves walking hand in hand down the shore, or competing in the final round of a huge surfing competition.
Being such a huge country with multiple climates, Canada is an amazing place to write about. I hope that this article on my pick for the 5 best Canadian story settings not only inspired you to write a more unique setting into your next story but also taught you a little bit about how the country of Canada is unique itself––it’s worth a visit!