When asked if I'd write a guest post I thought, "Sure! What will be my topic?" I devoted myself to settings that become characters, so that seemed like the best well from which to draw. I hope to inspire you on your writing journey!
The Dark was J Lenni Dorner's winning entry for the WEP - October Halloween Challenge. I hope you've
all had a chance to read it, if not the link will take you there.
Today, as our
guest, he's writing on settings and how it affects your characters.
Take it away J Lenni Dorner!
The most important function of any setting, or any item in a setting, is how it affects a character.
A popular example of a great setting is the arenas in The Hunger Games series. Those of you who read the books know that those arenas are monsters. Yes, President Snow is the main antagonist. But the arena tries to kill Katniss. There are passages that discuss players who have died because of an arena. It's a person-versus-nature element.
Now imagine if The Hunger Games didn't have an arena. Katniss and Peeta are sent to modern day New York City and have to outlive their opponents. Would the books be as popular? There are plenty of books about a NYC character figuring out how to survive and thrive there. Taking away the arena changes the story. That is a great example of a setting that is a character. The reader is presented with a place they've never imagined before, and that place offers an emotional challenge to the point of view character.
Your writing journey might be different. Perhaps your setting is a well-known location. I'll use New York City as an example again. Rockefeller Center presents a myriad of emotions for characters. Has that location made your character reminiscent of watching the tree lighting with their family, all of whom were killed this year? Is it the place where she fell on the ice and a McHottie picked her up, held her close, and whispered, "amateurs should stick to the outside lane" before skating away? Maybe there's a bench here where his great-grandfather ate lunch every day after coming to this country to escape the concentration camps. Or the character has to go this way to get to work at NBC, but is allergic to pine and thus looks like Rudolph all winter long.
I have farmed potatoes. But I've never had to grow taters to survive on Mars. Yet, while reading Andy Weir's "The Martian," I felt like I had. That's another great story with a setting that can't be swapped. Mark Watney wouldn't be as compelling if the book were "The Idahoan." A story where the majority of the population is in favor of spending billions of dollars to help one farmer out doesn't seem plausible. But put him on Mars and it works.
So I encourage you to take some time with your settings. Find the sights, smells, textures, tastes, and sounds that make this place unique to your story. Use the setting as a tool to reveal traits of your character. Let it be a challenge or a comforting friend. Give the reader a reason to care about your setting (to the point that there would be a trending Twitter riot if Hollywood tried to put your characters elsewhere). It will pay off.
I'm J Lenni Dorner, winner of the 2015 Youthful Frights and Adult Fears WEP Halloween Challenge, and author of "Preparing to Write Settings that Feel Like Characters" (Amazon, Smashwords).
J Lenni Dorner: