Monday, August 24, 2015

The Importance of Place

Some time ago, I wrote a piece about the importance of the setting in a story.  I decided to revisit the topic since so much of what we appreciate as readers is the ability to get lost in the if we were there on the scene with the characters. Thanks to today's technology, we no longer rely solely on the dialogue to move the story.  Many scenes have no dialogue at all...just a character standing alone on a long stretch of empty beach while the sun sets on the horizon and the waves lap at his feet.

The setting is not just a backdrop for the action, it is a living, breathing real as the characters who converse and participate in the action. While the characters breathe life into the story, the setting breathes energy into the story and moves the action forward. While the characters provide motivation for the action, the setting provides mood and intensity. It is what makes us feel that we are there. It activates our senses.

It is so much easier to imagine ourselves standing on the beach next to the character, if we can actually smell the salt air and feel the wind in our hair. And once we stand next to our character, we understand why he is there and what he is feeling without the addition of unnecessary comment from the author telling us these things.

A full rich setting that appeals to our senses and connects to our memories provides dimension to the story. It makes the action jump off the page and it drags us, whether we like it or not, into the story itself. We not only care about what happens, we also experience it along with the character.

In Windborne, I wanted the reader to experience the extremes of Kansas weather to understand the hardships the women faced that were beyond their control. In The Stone House Legacy, the reader must feel the isolation and neglect of the stone house to understand it's legacy. As I write the second book in this trilogy, I am trying to capture a different vibe.

Every large city has a heartbeat that beats to the pulse of its people. Cities have their own majesty just as the mountains do. There is a power there that cannot be denied.  Throughout time, men have tried to conquer and own the cities, but they have succeeded only is leaving behind a small reminder that they were briefly there.

Just as mankind has helped to shape the cities, the cities have shaped mankind. They leave their mark on who we become as individuals. They remind us of where we began. They encourage our successes and scoff at our defeats.

This is the feeling I hope to capture in the pages of The Steel Canyon Legacy. My characters must not only overcome the obstacles life places in their way, but they must do it in the belly of the beast, so to speak...they must coexist with the city and use its power to their advantage.

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