Today I’ll discuss how economic stability, imports, and exports can help to make a setting feel like a character.
Some settings will be well-known for people living there to always be rich or poor. Other settings, particularly in places torn apart by war, might lack such stability, and give the reader the feeling is that no one is safe. This can allow the setting to offer drama and affect the other characters.
Imports and exports are the basis for most economies. A country that exports high-valued items often does well for itself. A country that needs to import almost everything tends to suffer. Items needed for survival should be on your list (food, water, supplies for decent shelter). Items of comfort come next (jewels, material for fine clothing, better drinks). And, when the goal is to have a setting that feels like a character, anything unique must be added.
That works on a small scale as well as a large one. A unique “import” to the setting of my home might be collection of figurines from a certain movie. My home might be the only one the block with that collection, which means that setting stands out. A unique “export” from the setting of my neighbor’s home could be vanilla scented embroidered pillows. Not only is she the only person I’ve encountered to sell them, but her home is the only “setting” that is prepared to make more of them right now. The way her place smells, the look of fabric swatches and sewing equipment, sticks out in the mind. It isn’t generic, and that makes it start to feel like a character, like it has some personality. Most importantly, it gives you clues about the character of my neighbor.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson in preparing to write settings that feel like characters – my A to Z Challenge theme for 2015. If you long to discover more in-depth details on this topic, I have a .99 cents (US currency) ebook available on Amazon and Smashwords.
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Question of the day: What is your favorite item to carry money (or credit cards) in?