Do you love New York?
Or would you hate it, even on a spring day in Central Park?
What about your characters?
We know how important is to describe where your story is taking place: if it could happen anywhere, you miss a huge opportunity to create a meaningful story world for your reader. But have you ever considered the importance of setting to each of your characters? How does each one feel about it? And how does that affect what they do in your story?
Setting can enrich a character's behavior by causing them to react in ways that move the action forward. In other words, setting can create conflict. There are two kinds of conflict: Internal and External.
Internal conflict is what happens inside a character - and it can change the dynamics of any setting.
If your hero loves the beach, she'll be relaxed there. It will be the ideal setting to slow down the pace and let a romance build. Then again, if she hates the beach - whether she refuses to be seen in a swimsuit, or if her brother drowned in the ocean - that first date could be a nightmare before the picnic basket is unpacked.
Popular "fish out of water" stories use the setting to create inner conflict through contrast. Put a city gal in a country setting for the first time, and the humor will write itself. Send her home to the small town she escaped, and drama will infuse every scene.
External conflict is something that happens right there on the outside when your characters have other business to attend to. The romantic couple at the beach could get rained out, or distracted by a lifeguard rescue, or lose the car keys in the sand. The gal in the country could experience her first tornado, or a flirty sheriff, or a lack of cell phone signal. Pile some external conflict on a scene already rife with internal conflict and you get a double whammy - a scene so exciting there is no way the reader can resist.
The point is, when we talk about setting, anything can happen - and should. Where we are and how we feel about it makes a big difference in our lives. Where your characters are and how they feel about it can make a big difference in your story.
Leslie Lehr is a prizewinning author, essayist, and screenwriter. One of her favorite settings is at book festivals where she gets to discuss her new novel, What A Mother Knows.
You can follow Leslie at www.facebook.com/authorleslielehr
or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org