Setting as character


We recently had some work done on our house- new windows, new porch, new railing, new steps, and some new paint. Its seriously improved the look of the house, but more importantly, its changed the personality for me.

You see, this house represents more than just the place I live; the house represents years of a rocky marriage where my husband gutted it after years of neglect, and I felt forced into living here. I hate it. I loathed it. The house illustrated my lack of choice in my life. I’d crack jokes that we lived above a Hellmouth, or a burial ground, or some other place of evil.

So now the house is painted. Windows are replaced. The porch redone so well I feel I can sit and sip my coffee, watching the world go by. No longer do I feel this house hates me, and although I haven’t quite come to grips with the fact so much is fixed, I no longer hate it.

In stories, setting also can affect characters. Setting offers challenges to overcome, sets mood, and represents character. Cultures are affected by their environment, such as deserts, mountainous cold regions, or jungles. The place we live also hold memories, much like being a character in a story.

Setting includes buildings, weather conditions, biomes, even planets. They can limit or expand opportunities for your characters. How different would Star Wars be without Tatooine? Or Avatar’s world of Pandora? Or Frank Hubert’s Dune series on Arrakis? Or what of Jack London’s, To Build a Fire, in the setting of Alaska? The stories would vary greatly if in anyplace but in those settings.

Seasons are also important elements to setting. Winter offers problems that differ than a monsoon season. Droughts differ than floods. Each offers their own issues.

Do you consider setting in your novel? Have you changed setting to add/detract from problems? Post in comments.


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