The Importance of Setting in a Novel – Genclik Park, Turkey: THE BRIDE STANDS ALONE
There is no novel without setting.
It could be a room, but even a room can be a complex setting. Or it could be an image-stimulating cruise ship.
A cruise ship implies vacation, fun, relaxation, good food, entertainment, maybe gambling. But it doesn’t scream murder! (A cruise ship is the setting for my novel, At Risk: Passion and Peril at Sea. ) To utilize this setting, I drew upon my personal experiences on the high seas.
Writers take ordinary places, places people can relate to—like a shower, or places people might find interesting—like an art gallery, or intriguing—like a museum, or frightening—like an abandoned old house, and incorporate them into the novel. Writers must think about setting and how, what, where, when, and most importantly, why they’re using it. In most instances, description should be integrated into the action. When a setting is done well, readers are transformed to that location. They see it, smell it, move around with the characters, and experience what the characters experience.
For example: She jumped into the dry fountain at the center of the park, ran around the crumbling statue of Zeus, and leapt onto the moss-covered stone path at the back end. Running with every ounce of energy she had, she glanced back to check the distance between her and her pursuers, and slipped into the pond. She crawled out of the cesspool, hobbling at half the speed, certain she’d never escape.
What did you imagine? How many details about the setting do you remember? What do you think it smelled like? Textures? What sounds can you imagine from the description?
Do you see how setting was an integral part of the action? If you do this with your writing, then it won’t be bogged down with lengthy descriptions of your setting, but instead it will come to life!
In the mid 1960’s my husband and I lived in Turkey. The sites, the sounds, the smells, the tastes of Turkey became an important inspiration to my writing. One place in particular is Genclik Park,located in the capital Ankara. I describe it in my novel, The Bride Stands Alone: One is drawn by the sound of splashing water and fountains that change color, creating water ripples of crimson, saffron and aquamarine. As a backdrop, trees festooned with tiny, brilliant blinking lights are designed to enchant. Add music – rhythmic, wailing minor key gradations that provide background for a man smoking a water pipe as he sways to the music. But in this carnival-like atmosphere, fear intrudes in the person of a menacing figure.
*Photos of Genclik Park courtesy of TripAdvisor.