From Static to Fantastic
As writers, we want every facet of our story to shine. We obsess about plot and characters. We spend hours weaving elaborate back stories, imagining every detail from the flecks of gold in our hero’s eyes to the height of our heroine’s shoe heels. We dream up conflicts we hope seem impossible to overcome and do our best to make certain we have a “because” for every “why.”
Depending on the genre, most of us have spent hours researching historical accuracies, legal proceedings, or devising the rules of our own Paranormal world. So, how is possible, then, that our settings are often relegated to background static instead of being used as a full-fledged orchestra?
In my books, I get to visit a wide range of times and places, but in my opinion a great setting is more than just a certain year or country. To me, it’s what makes the word pictures we write high definition instead of fuzzy black and white.
Here are a few ways I like to use setting to best advantage:
• Use weather or seasons to emphasis your character’s story arc. For example, in my latest release, The Protector, I used the cold, damp days of a Roman winter to magnify the loneliness of my heroine’s life. As the story progresses, she and the hero travel to the Amalfi coast where the warmth and color of their surroundings mirrors the happiness they’re experiencing together.
• Use setting as a metaphor for your character’s inner emotions. In my book, The Duke’s Redemption, a storm outside is like the tempest of pain raging in my hero after he receives the news of his brother’s death.
• Use a contrasting setting to magnify a character’s personality. Ex: Nothing escaped Agnes’s dreary disposition. Even the daisies lining the garden path seemed to wilt when she walked by.
• Use setting to highlight a character’s circumstances. Ex: Before the war, the Smiths had known every luxury. Now, the parlor’s curtains and threadbare rugs were as faded as the family’s glory.
• Remember to engage not only the characters’ senses, but the readers, too. Whatever the scene, include as much sound, taste, touch, etc. as possible.
I hope these ideas have helped to get your creative juices flowing. What are some of the techniques you use to make the most of your settings?
Florida native Carla Capshaw always dreamed of being a writer and world traveler, she followed her wanderlust around the globe before beginning work on her first novel. A two-time Rita nominee, Carla loves passionate stories with compelling, nearly impossible conflicts. She's found inspirational historical romance is the perfect vehicle to combine lush settings, vivid characters and a Christian worldview. Currently at work on her next novel, she still lives in Florida, but is always planning her next trip…and plotting her next story. Carla loves to hear from readers.