Thursday, October 6, 2016

Setting As a Character

I love quirky characters. Dickens was a master of them. Characters must change and grow from the beginning to the end of a story. It's a no-brainer: memorable characters are non-negotiable in a great story.

But there's one character who's often overlooked. Setting. The setting for a story is just as important as the actors roaming around in it. Setting creates the feel and is often a trigger for the characters to act a certain way or experience a particular emotion.

In my latest book, The Captive Heart, the rugged Carolina backcountry plays a prominent role in the hero and the heroine's lives. Here are some elements for you to think about when crafting your setting . . .

5 Key Elements in Creating a Setting as a Character

1. Atmosphere
Weather effects all of our lives and so it should effect your characters. Writing a big fight scene? Duke it out in the heavens as well with a big storm. Something creepy about to happen to the heroine? Make it night. Allow a dark atmosphere to enhance the creep factor.

2. Geography
Think about and describe the physical area of your setting then put your characters into it. If your hero has a big challenge going on in his life, ramp it up with a physical challenge of climbing up a bajillion stairs or a cliff.

3. Environment
The environment isn't just about geography. Think a little more nebulous, like the social, political, or cultural environment. In The Captive Heart, I incorporated the tension between the British and the colonists to add stress to the hero.

4. Population
A character can feel desperately lonely in the middle of a huge crowd or out in the wilderness. Use the people or lack thereof to heighten the emotion of your characters.

5. Calendar
Choosing a particular time of year for your story is part of the setting as well. Think seasons or holidays, but then think beyond that to dates that would be important to your characters, such as the death of one of their loved ones. Capture that emotion.

Where--and all that entails--you choose to set your story is every bit as important as the characters themselves, because the character and plot can play off of it.


chappydebbie said...

You did a fantastic job describing the surroundings in The Captive Heart. I could visualize the entire story.

Michelle Griep said...

Aww shucks, little cowgirl, thank you!

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