There are times when setting itself may participate in the story. Blizzards, droughts and other natural phenomena are obvious ways to make the setting active. Are there more? Certainly. One of them is to find in your setting specific places that have extra, even magical, significance or where events recur.
I’m talking about those spots that are legendary. For example, in your hometown was there a quarry-turned-swimming hole where boys tested their nerve, girls lost their virginity and the cops regularly busted pot heads or fished bodies from the water?
Such a place was legendary in your home town, no? What about where you live now? What’s the spot that everyone knows but isn’t on any tour? That too is a legendary place.
Now, what about the setting of your story? What particular spot in your novel’s landscape can have that kind of mythical significance? Give that understanding to your characters and—voila! That piece of the place then becomes a character in itself…even more so if several story events take place there.
This was an excerpt from The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass. In his new book, New York literary agent Donald Maass illuminates the techniques of master contemporary novelists. Some authors write powerhouse novels every time. What are they doing differently on the page? Maass not only explains, he shows you how you can right away use the techniques of greatness in your current manuscript.
A literary agent in New York, Donald Maass’s agency sells more than 150 novels every year to major publishers in the U.S. and overseas. He is the author of The Career Novelist (1996), Writing the Breakout Novel (2001), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004) and The Fire in Fiction (2009). He is a past president of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc.
You can order The Fire in Fiction online, and learn more about it from the publisher.