Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Time and a Place

On the podcast I produce and co-host, one thing we ask all of the authors we interview is this:
How would a setting change make your story different?
Gone With the Wind
It's really an interesting question when you stop and think about it. If you took a book or movie Gone With the Wind, and moved it to a setting other than the South in the Civil War, how would the story change? Could you even tell the same story in a different time and place?

For some of our guests, the answer is pretty sure: I couldn't tell this story in a different setting. It's too much a part of the story.

For others, a setting change wouldn't make much of a difference--the setting is a backdrop. Maybe if you changed the time, okay, especially when you're talking to science fiction writers. You usually have to have a certain level of technology to have a sci-fi story.

I got to thinking about this question recently when I listened to another podcast critique my books: my setting of a slightly-altered Kansas City was the latter rather than the former, a mere backdrop for my stories. I hadn't intended to do that with my books, although I would say the stories are more focused on the characters and the plot than where the story actually takes place.

Chicago Skyline
Which is in dramatic contrast to several authors I look up to, like Jim Butcher. His descriptions of a fantasized Chicago come alive, and even though I've never visited the real Chicago, I can picture what he's describing very well. And a change of venue for him would completely alter the story experience for me. 

But should you have a strong setting for your story? A sense of time and place?

It depends on the story. It depends on your writing style. It depends on how intrinsic items found in your setting are to the characters. As Kat Heckenbach told us on our show, the fauna in her Toch Island Chronicles was exceedingly important to her stories. She couldn't imagine setting it anywhere else--and couldn't since it would have impacted many facets of her story.

How is it for your story, though? Would your book benefit from a more heightened setting, one that takes on the position of being a character as in some of the books and movies I mentioned above? Or is a backdrop more appropriate?

Only you can decide.


For further reading:
Are you asking these important questions about your setting?


Tell me: Is your setting a character in your story? Are you happy with that, or is it something you plan to change?
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  1. Although they have bull riding exhibits on Madison Square, I don't think New York would be the best setting for my Circle Bar Ranch series.

    1. LOL! That would be a fun thought. ;) You should set one book there, just to challenge yourself.

  2. I write SF romance and the settings are almost characters in themselves. They are very important and often influence how the 'human' (or alien) characters live and behave and react to their environment so for me, each setting in each book is really important and wouldn't work if I tried to change it. Thanks for a really interesting and thought provoking post.

  3. Loved this article Liberty! It is really a fun, and challenging, thing to consider. Thanks!