Have you ever read a story where the setting made the story come alive? The setting gave that extra oomph! The first story that pops into my head is Sharon Sala’s A Field of Poppies.
Not only did I like the story, the setting made it stand out. The field of poppies was a deeply influential part of the story, but so much of the totality of Sharon’s setting in the story resonated with clarity and purpose.
Another example would be The River.
Or what about The River Wild with Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon? And why is it that movies pop into my head faster than books?
Because it’s not easy to make setting as real as a character. If it’s done in long pages of narrative it can be boring. If it’s done right…the story has more depth.
When I see a beautiful tree in the fall, there is always a twinge of sadness that comes to me. Fall was at one time my favorite season. The year my younger sister died was the most beautiful fall ever in my memory. The day before her funeral the tree in my parents backyard looked like it was on fire in the brilliant sun.
The day of her funeral it turned cold, dreary and rained. Fall was officially over.
But someone else will look at the picture above and another story emerges. There is nothing like walking in the woods in the crisp, clean fall air, with the crunch of leaves under your feet, the smell of a wood fire burning from a nearby farmhouse.
This scene would be difficult for me. What about you? I can see Jaclyn Reding, writer of historical romance novels, using a setting like this. She’s the first author I think of when I see it. Is it because of the glorious pictures she posts of Italy on Facebook?
Jaclyn mentored one of my first stories in Arizona and I love her books. Her settings show well!
Setting connects us universally.
I think of The Wolf and the Dove with this picture. Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, who is now deceased, wrote it and deeply influenced my life.
My mother introduced her books to me, and those days visiting my mother on the farm and reading books were golden. Perfect days. I still own the bed I laid upon to read. It has steel springs and I can’t bring myself to give it up.
The bed is character in my life. A character sitting in the guest room waiting for me to come to visit.
I wrote a book under another name with a similar setting to the above picture. It’s a hardback that my mother never got to see. She would have been beyond thrilled. It was because of her I started writing. When Kathleen E. Woodiwiss didn’t write fast enough for her, I boldly declared I’d write a book for her.
I did. (Not anything like Kathleen E. Woodiwiss though)
I love writing about the big city in books. However, the city that finds it’s way most often into my stories is Phoenix. And it’s unlike any other city I’ve ever visited or lived. Actually it’s the only big city I lived in. I’m not a city person per say.
The city above reminded me of New York at night…but only for a second. I recall a midnight limo ride through Times Square and the traffic being bumper to bumper despite the late hour. There’s not enough cars for that to be New York.
I’m wondering if my imagination is playing tricks…I swear I remember seeing one.
Which reminds me of one of the most memorable settings as a character…the mine in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Going into that mine was a thrill for me! Did you know it found a way into ALL of Mark Twain’s books?
And the Mississippi River was a character in his stories…very much so. I had to see it from the same vantage point as he had. I read that book more times than I can count as a child and into my teens.
What settings in stories come to mind for you?
To be continued…