Last week, we explored setting - the time period, place and duration of your story. Setting can add a unique element to your story. It can highlight themes, serve as a metaphor for plot or character, or expose the central message. Let's look more closely at how you can use your story's setting to develop your main character.
Consider the homework assignment: Pleasantville. In this 1998 feature film, two siblings find themselves back in time inside a 1950s TV show. The film explores "original sin" and our fears around a variety of human behaviors. It seeks to expose how our own prejudices lock us inside a colorless world - because we see the world literally in black and white.
Setting is crucial to the storyline. David and Jennifer's own world is fraught with parental neglect. When they arrive in the Pleasantville family as Bud and Mary Jane, it at first seems a better fit. Quickly, their outside ideals influence this idyllic town and expose the hidden prejudices and fears. Color plays a major role, specifically red, as does fire.
The town is flat, lawns are trimmed, fences are abundant. The physical setting is another character in the story and serves as a metaphor during the siblings' and citizens' transformations.
As you develop your plot and observe your character's journey toward solving his problem, consider how the setting mirrors or counters this process. You can play the what if game to explore possibilities.
What if your timid character who must find the courage to come out hides inside the town library? He feels safe in the words of others but can't find his own.
What if your angry adolescent who must confront his abusive father lives in a multi-story apartment building with no elevator (electrical outage, under repair, etc.)? His struggle to climb the stairs home each day mirror his internal struggle to confront his father.
What if your character's antagonist, the school bully, must take several different buses to get to school? The numerous transfers offer a metaphoric opportunity for change.
Keep exploring and play the what if game. Even if you choose to keep your setting in the background, there is always room to play up simple features - an ominous financial district, a pristine newly constructed church, streets named for civil rights' leaders.
Share your ideas here.
More fun with setting and time next week.
Until then, write on!