Friday, October 19, 2012

Setting Philly 2

On Wednesday, I posted the first part in this series: Finding a middle ground. Today I wanted to discuss how setting can define characters within their world.

Setting: Interacting with the World

In one scene, a character may feel embraced by the city surrounding her. All the buildings can feel welcoming. In another scene, perhaps at night and when she is afraid, she might feel more enclosed, trapped. All in the exact same place. That kind of interaction with her world reveals a lot about her character arc.

This is a statue in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. It depicts a lion fighting a serpent. It's awesome and gorgeous and totally sets the character firmly in the real world. This is a real thing that a reader can go and see for themselves. I like that tangible piece of reality in my book very much, but my favorite part of the statue being in the book, is how my character interacts with it.

A quick excerpt to show you what I'm talking about:

I open my eyes and squint at the statue across from my bench. It depicts a fight to the death, a battle. A massive lion crushes a serpent beneath his claw in final victory. Their lives are at stake, their combat fierce. In some ways, I relate more to these animals than the people in the park around me. I struggle to move past my own battle, still remembering every moment of the fight and never able to celebrate my triumph.

It gives a glimpse into her character while at the same time raising a lot of questions. This is my favorite way to use setting. I'm a character oriented kind of gal. Setting that does nothing to advance the story or the character usually feels a little flat to me. I know a lot of fantasy readers sometimes read books purely for the world building and don't get me wrong. I love me some well constructed worlds, but I'm more interested in the why than the what. Show me why the world needs to be this way to work with the plot or the character...that will keep me reading.

What about you? What keeps your attention in a story?


  1. I'm always aware of other elements in my story and making sure they are advancing the story or providing characterization, but I never really thought of setting doing that. I love it!

    1. Thanks, Ilima! You should try it. I really think it adds a lot. :)

    2. ok, and this would be why I'm not published or repped. ha ha but seriously. Good example. I really need to do this more often.

    3. haha, you'll get there, Erin. :) Just keep at it.

  2. Editing right now, and I appreciate this reminder. I almost always skimp on the setting. Gotta go take a look at that.