Setting Is Character Too

Posted: February 13, 2013 in Reflections, Writing
Tags: ,

I’ve been watching the first season of American Horror Story on my computer lately, half because I’ve heard so much about it and I’m intrigued, but also because I figure that it’s about time I watch some successful TV horror that I’m missing out on. Watching it, I realize something important: the house, which is the main setting of the show, is a character in itself. The setting is its own character.

I’m only three episodes in, but I’m learning that hthe house has so many layers and so much depth. In every episode we see some new aspect of it, some new piece of its history. We learn that t has its quirks, its needs and wants, and its effects on those who encounter it. And I think ultimately, it is the antagonist of the story rather than the home of the antagonist. The house has some designs for the family living there, and while I’m not sure what those designs are, I’m sure they’re sinister in nature.

(And if I’m right, don’t tell me; I want to be surprised).

This puts me in mind of other stories where buildings and settings that have been characters as well. Obviously, there’s The Shining by Stephen King: the Overlook Hotel was definitely sentient and not just inhabited by spirits. It lived, and it allowed souls to become twisted and live within it. Also, there’s the house in When A Stranger Calls, because it figures into the plot just as much as the two characters. We see the house, so airy and space-filled, and yet we feel trapped within it, wondering what was behind every corner. When we reach the climax of the story, we fear not only the killer, but we fear the house and what is hiding in its darkest corners.

This makes me wonder how I may apply this to my work. I know there’s a few stories where I could make the setting a character,, even though I have yet to write any of those stories. But how to make those settings come to life, to be characters? I don’t know. At least not yet. I hope to find out though, and perhaps I will, especially if I keep watching AHS. If I can…then it’ll just be conquering another skill I’ll need on the road to be an author.

It’s like Hotel California, but worse.

Do you ever use setting as a character? How do you do it?

  1. C. L. Parson says:

    The first novel I ever finished (so far), Asylum, is set in an insane asylum. I googled the term and used the images it pulled from the internet to give me ideas for my asylum.

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