[Coordinator’s note: I will not apologize for my setting pun]
Plot. Character. Setting. The three elements of stories. They don’t always appear in equal measure. We’ve all seen or read a story that was more a character piece, lacking significant plot. And all one has to do is head to their local movie theater in the summertime to see the latest big-budget blockbuster with paper-thin “characters” barely worthy of the name. But how many times have you encountered a story without a setting? A story has to happen somewhere, after all.
Think of setting like the foundation of a house. Everything is built atop it, and if it’s poorly put-together, the entire story will be shaky. Characters are often the product of their setting, at least in part. A plucky hero trying to escape from forced labor in a pitch-dark mine will necessarily be different than a plucky hero who grew up in a quiet, picturesque hamlet, like the one in my photo above (fun fact, that particular picturesque hamlet is believed to have been the inspiration for Tolkien’s Rivendell). Plot, too, flows in part from setting. If the neighboring kingdom’s frequent droughts force them to invade the plucky hero’s home, well, that’s setting driving plot!
During the month of July, I’ve asked the Fictorians and several guests to think up their best posts on the broad topic of setting. We’ll be seeing posts about how to research settings, how to use settings to reinforce the other aspects of your story, and, just to contradict everything I argued above, even a post for when stories don’t have settings at all!
So if your real-world setting, like mine, is unbearably hot these days, join us in front of your screen of choice and let’s learn about setting together. I feel confident in setting my expectations high. [Still not apologizing]
Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, and Dragon Writers: An Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.