Setting as Character

I’m starting to think that setting and character are the same thing. Or maybe just that they should be. It seems to me that in any story either the setting is important or it isn’t – that is, the setting becomes a part of the tale or it’s just a background without much significance. Neither is right or wrong, it’s just that different stories have different needs when it comes to setting. Consider “Mine”, the story that won the CBC short story contest this year: the entire story takes place in and around a house somewhere. Presumably it’s a house; I don’t think it actually says, and then the plot takes us out into the yard where the story ends. That isn’t much of a setting, but that story didn’t need much of a setting. Then consider Lord of the Rings – the whole damn thing is about setting. In that case I’d suggest the setting is as much a character as any of the proper “characters” are.

I’m working on a story for which I have a setting, partly have a theme and characters, and definitely don’t have a plot. Here’s some scribblings:

At the horizon the sea and sky merge with the morning light to form an unbroken gray wall. Closer to shore the water identifies itself through eddies and whitecaps while the sky is distinguished by somber clouds and circling gulls. The morning light however is ubiquitous and colours everything equally with its pale brush. The reporter stands on the dock resting his elbows on the worm eaten balustrade, his hands clasped before him against the cold.


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