How have you been liking the guest posts so far? Pretty interesting if I do say so myself! Next up, we have one of my very good friends and fellow blogger Crimson! Crim, who is a new blogger over at Moonlight Gleam's Bookshelf, also happens to be an aspiring author. I asked her the same question, but also said she could do it about general writing, not just a specific novel. She, of course, took this question and ran with it incorporating both writing in multiple novels and writing itself. It is a really intriguing post and I hope you guys love it as much as I do!
How does setting affect tone/feel/direction etc. of a novel?
Thank you, Crimson! Very well thought out and detailed! Hope it got everyone thinking about the importance of setting!
Check out all the books Crimson mentioned below! (Links to Goodreads)
Make sure to stop by tomorrow for a very special guest post from an amazing author!
- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)
one of the most important elements of a good novel. It sets the tone and it
influences how characters interact with each other. And, in fact, with the
Think of it
this way--setting is a character unto itself. And just as all good characters
need to be fully fleshed out and made three dimensional, so does the setting.
We don’t live
in a Paper Mario world. We get tripped up by construction, blown away by
horrible Canadian winters or tropical storms, and navigate our way through frustratingly
busy cities or frustratingly empty countryside.
And so should
really understand and utilize this, and some, well, don’t.
One of my
favourite classics is Emily Bronte’s Gothic novel Wuthering Heights. I mean, sure, you’ve got the
weirdly enticing and utterly terrifying Heathcliff, but I don’t think
Heathcliff would be half as powerful (as a general character) without the
isolated, dangerous moors in which the novel is set. The moors set the tone for
Heathcliff’s character. The moors are cold, the moors are dark. The moors are
strangely alluring, yet forbidding and dangerous and unknown. If you’ve read
the novel, you’ll know that that description of the moors is pretty much
synonymous for “Heathcliff.”
Not to spoil
the book for anyone who hasn’t read it, but Heathcliff spends the majority of
the book trying to (and succeeding in) keeping two households of family friends
separated. Alone. Cut off.
this one moment while I was reading when I realize these two estates where only
about 5 kilometers apart from each other, and I went, “Wait, what?” Because
these characters were acting like they were never going to see each other
again! Sure, a part of this is attributed to being set in the early nineteenth
century, where there is a distinct lack of cars. But would this novel had have
that same effect, that same element of complete isolation from only 5
kilometers away, if Wuthering Heights had been set in the city? Hardly.
that’s a classic Gothic novel. What about some more contemporary ones? How
about some fantasy? Can you imagine what a bore Lord of the Rings would be if
they could simply walk into Mordor? Half the adventure is watching Frodo
brave the elements, fight strange creatures, and navigate unusual places. I
won’t go into detail here because, despite having watched the extended versions
of the movies countless times, I can still barely remember the names of any
places. I’m terrible like that. But I’ll still point out a couple examples. How
about when Frodo and Sam meet Gollum and they have to trust him to bring them
places? Or in the first movie when the Fellowship is trying to get up the
mountain and then Saruman is all like, “I don’t think so,” and there’s a huge
blizzard, so they have to find a new way? Or the Ents, who are, quite
literally, both a setting and characters.
setting is really important to fantasy novels. You simply cannot have a fantasy
novel without having a good setting. Or dystopian, for that matter.
I think the
first novel I read when I was younger that didn’t have a contemporary/realistic
setting was Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. People, this is one of my favourite
series. Prior to reading it, I had gone through a couple years where, despite
being a huge reader as a kid, I kind of didn’t read anything. (Except Harry
Potter because, hey, it’s Harry Potter). But I was immediately sucked into the
world of Uglies. It was just so enticing. Cool technology! Sketchy surgeries!
Oh the fun to be had! I love how detailed and well-thought out the world of
Uglies is. From magnetic grids beneath the ground for using hoverboards, to the
segregation of different “classes” of people based on their ages and whether
they’re a “pretty” or an “ugly.”
not be the novel it is without that setting. It wouldn’t be able to send the
message it does about society and appearance if not for the setting. A lot of
the time, dystopian novels are used to send a message about a certain element
of society (The Hunger Games, anyone?). Giving a novel a futuristic dystopian
setting creates a distance between the reader and the issue the novel talks
about, and that distance allows us to look at the issue with fresh eyes (we can
never look at things clearly when we’re too close to them).
(Er, not that
you should be shoving a message down the reader’s throat if you’re writing a
novel. Absolutely not. No, no, no. But you’re writing a novel. Say something.)
think contemporary/realistic books get a free pass on setting. Sure, sometimes
it might be a little less important, but it’ll still influence how people
interact. If you live in a rural setting, or even in the suburbs, you’re not
going to travel around in the same way a city kid is. And think about little things--the
pristine blanket whiteness of snow in the countryside; the grimy grayness of
snow alongside busy city streets. And the obvious one--think about how often
authors utilize raininess to reflect a character’s mood. It’s a cliche because
There are a
lot of contemporary novels out there that would be completely different books
if they had a different setting. The haunting town in Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary
Girls, the boarding school in John Green’s Looking for Alaska, the boarding
school (again) in Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road.
So the next
time you’re reading a novel (and especially if you’re writing one) think about
how the setting effects the characters and the plot, and the sometimes highly
metaphorical way setting reflects the characters and the plot. It might just
change the way you read.