How important is the setting of your story to the journey taken by your main characters?
In general, setting always has some sort of impact on a story. Characters are bound by the setting, interact with it, and are influenced by it in much the same way that a real life person might be inspired in a cathedral and depressed while sitting in an office cubicle. In Wishing Cotton, the setting is in many ways responsible for the events that influence the characters’ choices and behaviors.
The three main characters – Olive, Blair, and Peter – are all on vacation, staying in separate beachfront cabins. Given the time to relax and reflect, each character comes to identify what one thing he or she feels is missing. It is while lounging in the sun that Olive first begins to ponder the nature of wishes, following a train of thought she would not have pursued if they were visiting a more active location. The setting provides her with the opportunity to exercise her imagination. Likewise, normally-practical Blair unwinds enough to agree to help with her friend’s fanciful experiment, even though it seems silly to her. Her surroundings have mellowed her so that she can have this experience as well.
The setting can also be said to be responsible for bringing the romantic element to life. It is because of the very peacefulness of their hideaways that all three must seek out more stimulating surroundings. The women and Peter would not encounter each other if the local carnival was not the sole option for activity in that area. For Peter, the carnival is an opportunity to observe human nature and seek inspiration. For Olive and Blair, it offers the prospect of fun and entertainment. Three people looking for such different things would not encounter each other if they were in a different setting that offered more options.
The setting affects the overall tone of the story, as well. It supports the light-hearted feel of the characters’ interactions. What would be difficult to imagine in a more day-to-day setting becomes believable in the context of summer vacation. It evokes memories of childhood games and having the freedom to choose any future you want. Even when dealing with the unpleasantness of reality, the characters are given the chance to process their feelings through a filter. They can contemplate the unpleasantness in their lives without feeling it too much, because for their immediate future, they are in an environment in which there are few potential problems they must confront. Their lives are on hold, so they can stop and live in the moment. This is a phenomenon that would not occur had they selected a different setting for their getaway time.
The importance of setting to the story may be subtle in Wishing Cotton, but it is nonetheless a major influence on the characters. A visit to New York City or a ski trip would not have provided the circumstances necessary for the characters to think, react, and interrelate as they do at their beachside hideaway. I tried to bring that setting and the atmosphere it creates to life for the reader, as well, and I hope that I was successful. Wishing Cotton is being released July 23, 2013, by Renaissance Romance Publishing, and I hope readers will enjoy visiting the setting I’ve created for my characters.
Mich's Book Reviews 7/29/2013 Guest Blog