Quick note: This is the last week to enter in my Fall Book Giveaway for a chance to win either Mordecai – Episode One: Bloodthirsty or The War for Yokendale. The two winners will be announced this weekend, so enter now by commenting which book you’d like on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
On October 27th, 2017, The Duffer Brothers’ dark thriller Stranger Things 2 dropped on Netflix, bringing us nine more episodes and a thickening plot set to unleash even more mayhem in the next season. The writing for Stranger Things is amazing, but I’m particularly impressed with the attention to the story’s setting. I’m a 90’s kid, but given that the 80’s set the score for pop culture for decades to come, I can always find myself relating to the show’s setting and the characters’ interests. The Stranger Things setting is a great example, but the world the characters and story inhabit is of utmost importance in every story.
In Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, an aptly titled novel, the reader is introduced to an average America that has a layer most of us can’t see: the supernatural. The setting of the story isn’t so dependent on time, as with the 1980’s and Stranger Things, but instead focuses on the place and culture melting pot that is America. Gaiman weaves us through a changing tide, as the old dies and the new grows, and assigns each major milestone in the world’s technological advance to a god, an idol, being, or intangible thing worshiped by the masses. It’s a story that takes its setting and transforms it into a character–or several characters. We’re seeing America, its roads and valleys, but we’re also seeing America’s culture and its effect on the cultures of the world. This setting makes and breaks Shadow, the main protagonist, and drives the story forward.
When working on your own writing, keep the setting in view from beginning to end. How your characters act, their dialogue, and even the plot are all dependent on it; and making the world you’re creating believable is what will make the rest of it flow. One final example of this is a classic and an international treasure: The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien is one example of how a completely fictional world can still be made to feel relatable and real. The setting of his saga is Middle Earth. Tolkien took a tedious amount of time creating lore for Middle Earth, a large portion of which never even made it to the page, and this dedication made the stories he told feel uncannily alive, filled with characters that are truly born of their cultures. He put the setting first, letting the characters develop naturally within it, and then populated his tale with the rich history he’d created.
Tip: When you’re deciding who your characters are, focus on where they are just as much as everything else, and keep it intertwined in the story.
Also, a few years ago, my first time to the PNW book festival, I met H.R. Rekow. Her latest book, The Wizard’s Legacy: “Shattered Lives,” is going to be on a free giveaway soon, you can check that out here.
This week’s writing prompt: Describe a place, one you know well, in vivid detail.