Archive for the ‘Setting’ Category

I’m not a movie buff. I don’t watch many movies and my tastes are conservative, but I’ll take this chance to comment on this movie because of the great experience and my interesting ties to it.

I read the novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a few years ago, because of the title, so when the movie came out on Netflix, I had to see it.

One of the reasons I first became interested in the book, is the name of the place where it’s set: Guernsey. You see, I live on a farm near a smaller-than-a-hamlet settlement in Saskatchewan named Guernsey. That’s where I pick up my mail. The latest google information on population in my Guernsey is a grand total of…wait for it…88.

The streets in my prairie village mirror some of the island names: St. Peter Street, St. Sampson Street, St. Martin Street, D’lcart Street, Pacific Avenue, Cobo Avenue. That’s about all the streets there are in my Guernsey. I’m hoping that in the future when I’m asked to state my mailing address, people will recognize the name and not call it Gerz-nee, or give me a blank look. I used to say “Guernsey, like the cow,” but most folks these days don’t know anything about cows either.

The setting for this story takes place on the German-occupied Island of Guernsey, in the English Channel, during the second world war.

A young British writer has been corresponding with a Guernsey resident about books and writing, and decides to make a surprise visit to find the story behind the literary society. When she arrives, she has another surprise coming when the people in the society are opposed to her snooping around in their lives. They firmly close her out.

As the story progresses, the writer finds out a few key answers to her many questions and gradually uncovers the whole story.

I love this movie because the characters are well-acted, the story seems true to the book, as much as I remember from several years ago, the setting is convincing, and the mystery of the story fascinates me. I was especially intrigued by the way the hidden facts are revealed piece by piece, like putting together a puzzle.

I will watch this movie again, soon, and maybe even pick up the book for another read.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend you take time to watch it—and read the book—before or after. A truly excellent portrayal of life in a remote occupied zone during WWII, told with integrity and charm.





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Giving Characters a Leg to Stand On

 A smile formed on Callie face at the sight of Tom. It had been so long.

“Welcome by to the land of the living,” she said.

“It’s good to be back. What have you been doing in my absence? I hope you managed to keep out of trouble.”

“Of course, what do you think?”

She willed him to take her hand, to look deeply into her eyes. There had to be something between them after all they’d been through together.view to east

Touching scene, except that it’s hard to follow in our mind’s eye because it’s not grounded. Callie and Tom are two characters floating in no particular time or space. We have trouble visualizing the interaction without supporting place.

Setting is as important as character, in fact, there are times when the setting is a character. Consider Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden. What would the story be without the image of the cottage on the cliff, or the unique house in Australia, or the attic room? And how about Jan Karon’s beloved Mitford Series? Setting is the canvas on which the characters move; it affects who they are and how they interact with one another, and sometimes it’s a life force in itself (think Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher).

Besides being a visual background for the story, setting can also provide direction and momentum for the plot. My Storm Series is set in South Russia at the time of World War I and the Russian Revolution. In this case, the setting is the essence of the plot. The characters act in accordance to what’s happening around them.

So setting is a grounding factor, a motivator, a character, an influence. It is also color.

When our son was in Peru some years ago, he sent us an email to describe Lima. One of his sentences still forms pictures in my mind:  “The houses looked like a kid had gone crazy with a box of crayons.”

When our son was in Peru some years ago, he sent us an email to describe Lima. One of his sentences still forms pictures in my mind:
“The houses looked like a kid had gone crazy with a box of crayons.”

Description can add depth to a story, as long as the depiction is woven in without distracting from the other elements. A novel must end up as a seamless whole.

I read a story recently—Assassin’s Trap—that left me in awe of the author’s skill at describing her settings. I could have sworn D.C. Shaftoe had visited every place she used in her remarkable story.

Here’s an article on setting from “Writer’s Digest” that may be of help to you with regard to setting:  “THE HOW OF WHERE” — THE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING IN YOUR FICTION.

The next article in this series will deal with plot, so until then, let’s work on our settings. 

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