Setting As Character

Setting can be so much more than simply a backdrop for action. A good setting can enhance the mood and emotion of a scene. A great setting can come alive and act like a character in a story. It’s the difference between a backdrop you’d find in a photographer’s studio and the 3-D version of Avatar. The planet, Pandora, was a living entity in the movie and the 3-D qualities made that believable. The world surrounded you and made you part of it. Imagine Little Red Riding Hood without the woods. Where would the buildup of tension and foreboding come from? How about To Kill a Mockingbird without the small town southern location? Would it have become a classic if it had been set in New York, or Boston, or even in a small town in southern California? It needed the history of the south, the civil war, the race tensions that pervaded the very molecules of the atmosphere of that time to help make that story a classic. So how do you make a setting into a character? To start, ask yourself do you want to set your story in a real place or in a made up one? If you hesitate to use a real place because of travel limitations (no cash to fly to Venice to check out the Grand Canal) is there someplace local that you could use to recreate the atmosphere? It can help a lot to go to a location and soak it up. It’s amazing the ideas you get from someplace real. All of your senses are involved and because of that, it’s...