Monday, March 31, 2014

Setting: The Silent Character

I’ve heard it said that setting can act as another character in a novel and I tend to agree. A rich setting can create a mood or an atmosphere that compliments a story, perhaps even illustrates the theme in a subtle way. It’s true, a character-driven story may not rely that much on setting, but even those need a sense of place. Sometime a place can even be a driving force for a character. What would Gone with the Wind have been without Tara and Scarlet’s love for it?
In my novel Hush Puppy, the forbidden romance between Corrine and Jamie could probably take place anywhere in the world there’s prejudice. I chose to set the book in rural North Carolina for several reasons. The South is a place of great contradictions and conflict, beauty and ugliness. As any author knows, the best stories have strong tension. Having grown up there myself and experienced that tension, it seemed the natural place to set the story. My feelings about my childhood home are complex and multi-faceted, filled with contrasting memories of love and hatred. I wanted to show the reader that complexity, so I used the setting to invoke both positive and negative emotions.  The sweet tanginess of wild blackberries, the burn of the summer sun sizzling in August, the smell of cigarettes and perfume in Mama’s hair all gently remind the reader that there is no black and white. No good or bad. Only shades of gray in a world that’s doing the best it can.
You can read more about me and Hush Puppy at

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