Mar 21, 2021

 In this essay we learn how to leverage setting to improve our story telling. In some cases setting is even considered a character.

One example was from the story Jaws by Peter Benchley which was made into a movie by Stephen Spielberg. In the beginning of Jaws, the setting is the ocean with a girl swimming. The story was crafted masterfully to make the vast ocean feel small and claustrophobic. It was literally so big and dark that it automatically triggered primal feelings of tension and helplessness.

The vast but constricted ocean and the woman isolated and helpless as mentioned by Fuller. The setting literally made the whole first scene very scary. We did not even need to see the shark under the water. We knew it was there, and it was her being pulled under the dark claustrophobic ocean surface that made the scene so horrifying.

Fuller made a great point that horror is the only genre that is named for the emotion that it triggers. I like that point. Fuller went on the make the point that horror quite often utilizes unitary settings to trigger helplessness such as a cabin in the woods, or a scary spaceship. Then once the characters are in the setting, the next step is constricting the setting to make the setting even smaller and more claustrophobic.

The objective of a horror writer is to make the characters feel trapped. A great way to do this is with the “single desired effect” principle. This is where words will heighten the feeling of helplessness in the reader.

Also, it is good to use words that pull double duty. The words will do a great job of painting a word-picture but also lay the foundation for to build the horror story.

If the writer is writing an effective story, the reader will identify with the author. The writer must work to make sure they do not write anything that will prevent the reader from identifying with the main character. That way as the story progresses and the setting constricts then the reader will feel the emotions that the main character is feeling.

Fuller made the point that the setting is in essence one of the characters in the story. Great concept. I will never undervalue setting again in my own writing.