Location, Location, Location!
At some point in our primary education, many of us learn about the three primary forms of conflict in fiction—character v. character, character v. themselves, and character v. environment. Of the three, character versus environment is the most seldom seen in contemporary fiction, which typically privileges internal and inter-personal struggles. These two forces—the internal and the inter-personal—often animate the plot of a narrative and serve as the cornerstone of character development.
Certainly, plot and character direct readers towards the intentions and considerations of any story, but a focus on those elements ignores a crucial aspect of any narrative: its location. Whether we like it or not, we are all products of the places we inhabit and the people that populate those locations—i.e., setting impacts us as much as we impact it.
This workshop will attempt to address two questions related to setting in fiction: First, how can a writer create a believable location, particularly when they are constructing an unfamiliar one? This is ultimately a question about world building. For those writing something fantastical or historical, this issue is particularly pressing as the narrative must establish the “rules” of its world. Second, how can setting be activated in a way that either pushes a character into unfamiliar territory or reveals something about why a character acts in a particular manner?