Setting, As Important As Characters?

HPIM1710Once again, I’m going to draw on one of my favourite blogs for inspiration, but with my own twist.

Writers need to constantly be concerned with characters. How they come across, their quirks, their habits, their history and so on. Sometimes a well-written character  can carry a stumbling plot. We readers can spot a flimsy characters three chapters off, can’t we?

But how many of us, readers and writers alike, have considered the setting as a character unto itself?

I hadn’t even considered it until I read the latest blog post over at Women and Words, in which R.G Emanuelle discusses The Soul of A Character

It got me thinking about the setting of the pieces I’ve written, and the settings of my favourite novels and short stories. I love reading about places I know, but it’s getting harder to find fiction set in Ontario, let alone set in Canada in general. Before I get too lost in wondering why that is, let me take this one step further.

I think readers enjoy reading about places they know because these places are familiar, they already have a presence and a reality in the reader’s mind. I’ve only stumbled across a few pieces set in Northern Ontario, but the few I have, set the tone perfectly. In particular, Crow Lake

The setting was bleak, sparse, full of memory but promise as well.

The setting worked for this novel because the overall theme of the book was memory, tragedy and struggle. The setting became, really, the only logical backdrop for this story. It just made sense to me, as both a reader and a writer.

As a reader, the book never left me, and I read it back in 2011. As a writer, it never left me because of that setting, because it was set in a familiar part of my home province and because the story was that good that I’ve been haunted by it ever since.

So as a writer, I am conscious of how to make a setting so vivid that it becomes nearly a character itself. As a reader, I want a backdrop that will be both real and yet not take away from the story.

It’s a fine dance, and when done well can leave a lasting impact.

What settings in novels or short fiction has left an impact on you?

2 thoughts on “Setting, As Important As Characters?

  1. Any story that allows me to close my eyes and picture the scene.
    Louis Llamour described the American West so well, that when I had a eventually had a chance to travel the areas he wrote about, I felt like I could almost find the trails he wrote of, and the cliffs and streams and valleys his character traveled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read L’amour as a youngster like some people breathe. I loved the way he put words together. Sometimes I thought I could smell the hot sand, or the hear the creak of leather. I still say he is responsible for my love of the Southwest.


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