Stronger Settings

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Match Emotional Structure to the Novel’s Settings

Always try to matching the setting to the emotional layers of your story.

For example, the setting of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster BoyLizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is a New England coastal village, appropriate for several reasons. It’s built on a solid cliff, like Turner’s life is built on the solid foundation of family and church. Lizzie is physically separated from Turner’s life because she lives on an island. And the coast is a place where a boy might row out far enough to come face to face with a whale, a place where a boy might look into the eye of a whale. It speaks of foundations and separations and inspiration and growth.

Generic School Settings. My particular pet peeve is school settings while are all generic. Yes, to an extent, if you’ve been in one school, you’ve been in them all. But teachers–and characterization of teachers is important–can create a micro-environment within a school. Do they have family pictures on their desk, or awards, or vacation pictures, or just generic posters?

What is the emotional environment of your story? When you choose a setting, make it echo that emotional environment! This could include the time period, the geographic location, the buildings, the clothing, the time of year, the weather, and the bit characters who populate this setting. Evaluate all these in light of the emotional journey your character is taking

Does this sound too much like your English class trying to analyze a story? Well, it is. Another book I like that provokes me to think about this is How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas Foster.   When is the weather not just the weather?  When is a meal not just a meal?

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