Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book staging: settings and backgrounds

There are 4 things I look for in a book. They are, not necessarily in order of importance, 1. Plot: 2. Character development: 3. Setting and atmosphere: and 4. Quality of writing. This time, I want to talk about settings and atmosphere. While there are notable exceptions, books are not “performed” on an empty stage with no props or costumes. The background setting places any book in context, whether historical or modern, and the more vivid and vibrant it is, the more life it gives to the story. Sometimes, (and this is especially true in series that all take place in the same setting), the setting can become so real that I seem to slip into it completely, and have to reorient myself when I stop reading or finish the book. I can even become just a bit “homesick” for some settings, like the bayou settings of the Dave Robichaux books, or the little MN town where the Cookie Jar mysteries by Joanna Flukes take place. The background can never overwhelm the story, but when it is well done, a few words or a paragraph can set a scene so indelibly that it remains unforgettable, and, in my mind, the action of the story unfolds naturally in it. I can see the buildings, hear the sounds, natural or otherwise, feel the weather, and be a kind of invisible and passive character in the story happening around me. When this happens, I am unabashedly delighted!

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