I now live in Salt Lake City. It’s where I grew up and it’s all very nice, however, I’m reluctant to switch my location status from Chicago. I admit, I held some pride that I lived in a big city and I’m struggling to let that go. Plus I miss it. Give me a week or two.

But let’s look on the bright side. My move has given me cause to reflect on how important setting is. Because my own setting has recently changed, I’m hyper-aware of how intricately connected setting is with character. We are, for the most part, products of our surroundings. We soak in what we see, hear, and experience and those things are what we become. When those things are changed, we change too. So if you like who you are, stay where you are. If you want to change, then move. If you don’t know what you want then go sky-diving.

I’m having an identity crisis here, can you tell?

Setting itself can be thought of, not just as a stagnant place where characters can play out a scene, but as a character itself, ever evolving and affecting the characters, shaping their choices. Hogwarts Castle is constantly creating problems and solutions for the students. The moving staircases, the Womping Willow, the secret rooms and passageways. And if you don’t have a magical world there’s always the weather. Nothing shakes things up like Mother Nature!

So I’m curious to know how you develop your worlds or settings? Are you conscious of it at all or do you let it develop naturally, subconsciously even, with your story?


  1. I’m of the opinion that the more purposeful you are about your writing, the better it will be. So I definitely think about things like setting and world building and how to incorporate these elements without bashing the reader over the head with them. (But I still need good betas to point out all the places I haven’t quite succeeded:) )

    I’m glad the move went well, Liesl. And I totally get how you feel about leaving a place as cool as Chicago. You’ll settle in, though – like you said, just give it a few weeks.

    • ali

    • September 9, 2010

    • 3:55 pm

    Wow. I’ve never really thought of it before. Thanks for opening my eyes! When I moved to Rexburg, ID from Woflville, Nova Scotia, I had an identity crisis. Everything was different, and not necessarily good-different. The weather was dryer and hotter, everything was brown, nothing smelled the same. And because my setting had changed, I thought I had to change. Who was I, this Rexburg-ali. Somehow she couldn’t be the same as Nova Scotia-ali.

    I’m going to have to really think about this, because in all my stories so far there has been a drastic change in scene–it makes perfect sense (now that you point it out to me) that it would be affecting my characters. Wow!

    And Liesl, I gave you an award on my blog today! http://alicross.blogspot.com/2010/09/you-like-me-you-really-like-me.html

    • Cinette

    • September 9, 2010

    • 5:17 pm

    I’m one of those writers that has a first draft that’s almost entirely ‘talking heads’. Have have to go back and add in setting, and in my current piece, the setting changed the story dramatically, bringing out new problems and plot ideas. Setting does matter, sometimes even becoming another character in the story.


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