Monday, August 10, 2015


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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