Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Setting and Strategy

One has to put their characters in a setting. This setting can become as important as the plot and characters in a story. Think of the authors who have used a particular setting again and again in their books. Also think of how many authors have used the same setting with different results. A setting that one is familiar with can make the writing easier on one level, but taking this setting and making it part of the characters' natures can add another element to the story. I've found the Hudson River village where I've lived for many years is featured in many of my stories, particularly in the cozy mystery series. My character resonates with the river and she also has changeable moods just like the river that changes with the weather and the season. Even when she leaves her village for adventures elsewhere there is the contrast with her home and the new place.

What about those writers of fantasy or science fiction? One of my favorite series by Cherryh takes place on an alien world and yes, the characters do leave this world for others but they carry elements of the setting with them as they travel and explore.

Using a setting that is familiar can cause problems since as the writer, if you've lived in a place for most of your life or for a lengthy time, the familiarity can cause you to think other people know the place as well as you do. But you will also be familiar with the scents, the sounds, the touch and the tastes of the place you chose. I've been a nurse and I can create hospitals based on the ones where I worked because I can remember particular things about these hospitals.

So when you're planning your story, choose a setting that's more than incidental to the characters and the plot. Use your setting to develop the characters and to advance the plot. Nothing more frightening than a spooky house or the wind open plains to add depth to the story. Use the setting to integrate elements of your story. And remember that each character will react differently to the same setting, just as ten writers using the same setting will have a different story at the end.

1 comment:

Janice Seagraves said...

I know what you mean. Setting can be a huge part in nearly any stories.

My setting in Windswept Shores became almost a secondary character. In the ms I'm working on now, I did some field-trips to scout out a location in the mountains above where I live.