Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Little Bit About Settings....

Settings... where does your story take place?  In Heaven?  Hell?  Another planet? This world?  If it is this world, what time frame?  Middle Ages? The future?  World War I or II?  Another time entirely?  And how does that setting affect the rest of your story?  Does the environment your characters are living in shape their personalities or how they get by in life?  Are they isolated with few friends because of the terrain or location?

So many questions right?  But this is something that every writer has to deal with when telling a story. And of course your setting can also shape what genre of story you are telling.  Take Frank Herbert's "DUNE".  The setting of Arakis had a major role in shaping the main character Paul and his mother.  From leaving a world of splendor with water and lush vegetation to going to a barren desert planet, where water was more valuable than money or any riches.  The dangerous and harsh world re-shapes Paul from pampered youth to hard-bitten leader of the desert tribes of Arakis.  He learns hard and fast how to survive the threats of the planet itself, along with the political backstabbing that led to his father's murder.  Setting can create a great tension that helps drive your story.

Ray Bradbury's short story "HERE THERE BY TYGERS" is another sci-fi story where a planet shapes the lead characters.  A mining survey team arrive on a planet that will offer you anything you wish, lush vegetation, water, even companionship.  But in return she only asks that you love and respect her.  There is only one little catch, Paradise can be yours as long as you respect the hostess on whom you are staying.  Unfortunately, through the actions of one man, they learn the price of disrespect and decide to leave.  All save one member who the others envy because he loved the planet and adored her.  And they knew she would take care of him and even maybe extend his life in a lush world that aims to please him.  But having left her, they could never return.  Even as they look back on the world it now appears as a violent raging world of molten lava and volcanic eruptions.  They had abandoned her and now she is furious and will not let them return to her surface.  Literally a woman (in the shape of a planet) scorned.  A truly brilliant piece.

So what kind of setting are you aiming for?  An inner-city ghetto, or a desert where an army is trying to deal with survival in more than one respect, to a quiet suburban town where 'nothing seems to happen'.  In each case your characters must interact with their surroundings.  That setting should shape your character's personality and development before and during the story.  In that quiet suburban town where your lead is bored, what secrets lie beneath the ground or behind those seeming bland windows of the cookie-cutter housing that lines the streets.

Now what's brought about all this talk today is the fact that in less than a week, my personal "SETTING" is about to change.  My wife and I are moving 45 minutes away from where we are now, to another town where she can attend a university for the next 2-3 years.  We've already seen the new location and it's lovely.  But it's also quite different from our current setting here in Santa Cruz.  I'm going to take photos of where we are now and the new place after we've moved and post them here.  Both places are coastal communities.  But each one is quiet different and yet similar at the same time.  I'm hoping that with the photos I can make this more clear and talk about "Mood" in a future blog installment.  Because even though the 2 towns are both coastal, they have very different personalities and moods.  Until next time take care and keep writing.