Stories are all about people.
I know we’re supposed to be talking about the setting, and you want to know about magical towers in the sky or abandoned subways or starships. I’m getting to that.
The thing about people is that they live in places. They have tribes, families and friends they call their own (or they don’t: they’re a loner, a wolf at the edge of shadow). They style themselves as ganguro punk, or carry the raiment of the aristocracy.
They probably have a house. Or live in a sewer with their brother turtles.
It doesn’t matter, but all of these highlight why setting is important: the things around us help define us. It’s not that we are making a political statement about the rich or the poor, but that it gives our reader something to attach to, and necessary motivations to the way our people act and react to what’s around them.
Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice is likely to react to an alien invasion quite, quite differently to Kastagir in Highlander. Setting helps define where we come from so our plot can take us forward.
Setting also provides a powerful catalyst against which change occurs. That sounds heavy, but some of the best stories are about coming from a time or place and being challenged about our preconceptions. Thor is an arrogant, vain, warmongering imbecile partly because he is Odin’s son, and partly because he is from Asgard. He’s a god, right? Changing this basic setting, yanking him from the heavens and putting him on Earth as a mortal lets Marvel explore what it takes to change the nature of someone, all within a nice tight two-hour movie script.
That story has less meaning without the setting: if Thor’s a kid from the Bronx, he can’t undergo the change that makes him real, and makes the audience have sympathy for him.
Setting is a powerful tool, just as important as the names of your characters or the plot outline you define. It can get a lot of heavy lifting done just by changing the context of how you frame the start of a story or where the people sit.
Valentine’s an ordinary guy with ordinary problems. His boss is an asshole. He’s an alcoholic. And he’s getting that middle age spread just a bit too early. One night — the one night he can’t remember — changes everything. What happened at the popular downtown bar, The Elephant Blues? Why is Biomne, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, so interested in him — and the virus he carries? How is he getting stronger, faster, and more fit? And what’s the connection between Valentine and the criminally insane Russian, Volk?
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Genre – Action, Thriller, Urban Fantasy
Rating – R16
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