Funny, when I was young, I thought that settings were incidental. Simply a time and a place, settings framed a story, like a backdrop.
Really, settings permeate a story.
A good setting echoes the theme, the mood, the characters, and every aspect of the story. A good setting cannot separate from the story, and an even better story accentuates the feel of the story.
An example: back to my old favorite, Graham Greene. If you read enough about Greene, you will hear about Greeneland. This is the famous setting--transposed from Vietnam to England to Mexico to wherever--that echoes the haunting feel of Greene's work.
Take The Quiet American. The setting is a ex-patriat community in Vietnam, caught in the conflict before it becomes the embroiled American conflict. This pregnant tension with transposed reporters, political activists, and romantic Vietnamese enmeshes this story.
A brilliant setting becomes the story and influences the story.
One more example: Our Man in Havana. Again, as is common in Greene's work, a British ex-pat finds company with other ex-pats in Havana (pre-cuban missile crisis). The violent and turbulent leaders, the ex-patriat communities, and the British secret agents collide. Somehow it all coalesces with a game of checkers with whiskey bottles for the pieces. Only in Havana?
The fantastic and marvelous settings unfold the stories on a deeper level than can possible with a superficial setting.
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