Give Me the Night? I like to think it is, but here it plays the role of a minor character and not a main character as in the first novel.
When I look at other stories I have written that are set outside of Trinidad and Tobago, the settings tend to play minor roles (with the exception of one post-apocalyptic story). Then I glance at my recent short stories set in my country and here again, the setting tends to play a major role. In two works in progress, now that I think about it, the setting is the main character. How does this happen? With me it's an intuitive process that apparently depends on my familiarity with and attachment to the setting.
What elevates setting to the status of character in a story? Based on my own experience, I'd say it's a combination of the following:
- The use of telling details that create images of place, time and context (the basic function of setting).
- The use of elements of the setting as symbols of important themes or issues within the story.
- The use of pathetic fallacy which is the perception of nature as sentient--sympathetic or responsive to human issues in the story. (Examples: the angry sky, stealthy shadows, uncaring desert, the rain as tears...)
- Characters' emotions, thoughts, and/or actions being affected, catalyzed or constrained by elements of the setting.
- The setting changes over time, just as a well-drawn character must.
- In other words, making the setting personal, and not simply a static background.
How do you handle the issue of setting in your writing, and how important is it to your enjoyment of a story?