Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Brief Thought About Character and Setting

We were discussing on Google+ recently about how much setting serves to establish character in a story, or just how important setting is.  

Setting in a lot of ways has to do with how your characters react to things, rather than the things themselves, which isn't to say that character alone determines setting, so much as voice determines setting. And voice doesn't have to be the literal voice of the protagonist or omniscient narrator , but an overall feeling of coherency. Character and setting flow naturally together in a consistent way when the voice is consistent.

Sometimes you change narrators in a story to tell the story from a different perspective, but if you also change your underlying voice, you change the readers perception of both setting and character. It's a change in tone. it's Huckleberry Finn vs. Tom Sawyer. You're taking the reader out of one world, and putting them into another. But if there's an underlying voice throughout the narrative, a consistent vocabulary and tone, you can change point of view without breaking the illusion of a consistent environment, an objective world that exists and continues to exist outside of the individual character's perceptions.

Edit: of course both approaches can be equally useful, but the question you want to ask yourself is: is it purposeful?  Is changing voice going to add something meaningful to the story?

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