Writing setting as character

My name is Setting
5 weeks. One neighborhood, a state park, a second town, half a dozen shops, a few restaurants. 9 characters, 10 including the dog. 30,000 words logged, 10% of which might actually be in the novel.
We’re really doin’ it, buddy!
I noticed something significant when I listed five favorite novels a few weeks ago. Setting is a key “character” in each of them. I love to fall in love with the place.
“Every human event happens somewhere,
and the reader wants to know what that somewhere was like.”
-William Zinsser
Here’s the thing. I’ve got a somewhere, but it’s still missing a lot of its somewhereness. (Fun word. Thanks, Uncle John!) I haven’t done a great job bringing the locale to life…yet. But when I write the scenes, there will be heaps of opportunities to interject more personality into the setting as I go along.
Here’s a checklist for when I get there:
  • Check your senses. What can we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch?
  • What customs, idioms, names, mannerisms, flora and fauna are unique to this place?
  • How do climate and landscape affect the story?
  • What does this particular setting add that no other location could?
  • How can a character interact naturally with the setting?
  • How can the setting help or hinder the characters?
  • Can the setting reflect the characters’ action or internal struggle?
  • What happens here that could never happen anywhere else?

Note: The program I’m following is from John Dufresne’s book, Is Life Like This? A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months.  It’s been good so far. Check it out.


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