The Best Setting
What is the best city for a story? Should characters be teenagers or adults? Does the action begin in a calm setting or a rough biker bar? How about some good old-fashioned aliens to spice up the mix? Yep, it’s possible to leap up and fly. All kids grow up that way! So let’s jump right into a passionate scene in an epic love story set in the 1800s on a mighty sailing ship with a proud captain at the helm.
The correct answer is, “the setting should support the story.” This means that if the story centers on a rough biker that the story should take place in a rough biker bar. Right? Umm, no. My life is not a story. I live in a quiet house on a quiet street, so how could I relate to a story that begins with a character calmly walking into a rough biker bar? But, on the other hand, I am flexible and enjoy stories set in another city or characters which are radically different from me. They can even live in inconceivable realities, have improper physics or crazy bodies.
However, there is an important caveat. The author must take me from my quiet street to an understanding setting. This means patiently leading me from my reality to this new one. I need details and connections! For example, Superman can fly because he is from a different planet. This means that people on this other planet do not have streets because they can fly and do not have cars. Makes sense.
The beginning of the book is the only opportunity for an author to hook the reader. First, an author must pull the reader into the setting, which means laying a careful foundation. The foundation begins with the setting, and in this space, the character can thrive.
How about a fantasy, comic book, or science fiction story? In looking back at those well-done works, they all had “origin stories.” This effort led me to their comfortable setting, which made the story relatable.
Alright, we have a beginning, but what is the best setting? I like the classics. Teenagers should be in high school and adults at their jobs. Drama occurs in the home and conflicts somewhere else. While not too exciting, this foundation is a great place to start. From there, we can build our settings and go places. How about a pleasant trip to the woods? Let’s go on a jog. How about a visit to the neighbor’s house? Hmm. My neighbor might have “spider powers.”
What would a house look like of a person with “spider powers?” Alright, that is something we can sink our teeth into. Spiders can walk on ceilings, so that would be different. Perhaps there would be a sofa attached to the ceiling. Seems out of place? Umm no. We understand both spiders and our everyday homes. An author's goal is to bridge the two together in a manner that can be relatable. So, yeah. “Spider home.”
My rule is to always begin with something relatable and then take my readers some place wild. Yet, there has to be a connection to home. This keeps the reader hooked. I feel the same about my blogs. First, they need to connect readers to our world and then jump to the unexpected.
PS, this is my 200th blog! Yay!
You’re the best -Bill
January 05, 2022
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