Setting as Character

You all may have heard this one before. What does it mean when an author says that you should think of the setting as a character? Once you wrap your head around this concept and really think about that sentence, this will become second nature to you as you think about your scenes.

As an author, whether it is fanfiction for your personal enjoyment or novels to publish, the setting can help you push the story forward. Each scene needs a setting, even if it is only a little room with nothing in it. Think about it this way:

Take the example above of the little room. If you are writing a mystery or thriller, what could this room represent? Is there any furniture in the room? If not, this could be a characteristic to help the setting act as a character. What if there is no furniture, but there is a yellowed lace curtain streaked with dirt? A cobweb in the corner of the room between the wall and ceiling? Dust on the floor? Now we are getting somewhere. These elements could tell the story of where this room is located, and the occupants of the space. What if a young woman in your story was kidnapped? She observes this room as a prisoner, so the look of the room fits in with her situation. She doesn’t know where she is, and her chances of escape look bleak.

Let’s take this up a notch. What if she was handcuffed to something? An old radiator perhaps? Maybe this radiator doesn’t work? If this is the case, the time of year could be set in the cold months, which would cause the room to be freezing. This adds another element not only to this room, but to your female character’s situation.

If your female character isn’t handcuffed to something, the radiator could still be used for the setting. What if your character runs up to the curtain and pulls it back, only to find a set of security bars bolted into place? Escape out the window in this case would be impossible. Let’s go back to the radiator for a moment. What if the radiator wasn’t working because part of the unit is broken and weak? Your female character could use this broken piece as a weaon and lie in wait for her capturer to open the door, therefore, making her escape.

This is only one example of how you could make your settings work for your characters, or against them. Each scene has a location, so see if you can come up with different traps, weapons and other uses the scenery around your characters could implement when you get stuck writing a scene.