Monday, July 21, 2008

Setting as Character

Developing my setting has been an interesting exercise. Especially since I thought I had it all figured out.

Even though I have a fairly unique little fictional town—Aspen Falls, Colorado—the idea is that the general setting should be so specific that Aspen Falls could never be confused with a little town in Georgia or Maine or anywhere else. Since AF is geographically close to it's more famous counterpart, and is similar to another Colorado town, Boulder, I need to read a few local papers to see what sort of conflict is going on unique to those communities. Off-hand, something to do with land comes to mind, but that alone wouldn't set it apart.

Just as I do in-depth character studies for my main guys, I need to do an in-depth character study for my setting. It'll be fun to see how my different, cognizant, characters react to it.

And then there are settings inside of settings. Where I stage my scenes.

Donald Maass writes in Writing the Breakout Novel: Are any of the scenes in your current novel set in a kitchen? Aha! Caught you! Kitchens, living rooms, offices and other commonplace settings are familiar and easy, but what resonance do they have? Usually very little. Think canyons, sports stadiums, airports, squad cars, life rafts, recovery rooms, whatever. Settings that are emptier or more crowded than usual, or that have change or inherent drama built into them can envelop your scenes with the unfolding of other destinies.

So, yeah. I have at least one scene set in a kitchen. And way too many set in very routine places. Although I have a few unique settings, I know I can do better.

Finally I've learned that setting is more than "It was a dark and stormy night . . ."

Currently reading: To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman
Currently working on: Maass's exercise to weave my plot layers together. Plot layers??? Oy.

It's all better with friends.

1 comment:

  1. Setting is always important, if for no other reason than people associate the details they see with the events that happened there, and by pulling out some of those details later, the audience can get a potent mental image to accompany.

    I'm about to host a writing event on my journal-- World Building Month. You're welcome to join in if it suits you. :)