I am attempting to think more about setting than I did in my first novel. Whether a blue sky type of day or an overcast rainy one, an incredible sunrise or sunset, a clear night with a full moon or no moon at all, clearly setting can make a difference and has made an impact on so many stories over thousands of years. But, what if setting was atypical?
Typical outdoor settings come to mind when I think of eerie, whether it is wolves or coyotes howling at the moon or the clichéd dark and stormy night. The same can be said of the depressed on a cloudy, rain-filled day or the great joy found in moderate climates when the sky is blue. These days I am looking for something different.
I want to be done with civilizations that rise out of stable environments. A civilization that rises out of a stable environment will probably always be prone to excess and live in fear of change, perhaps going as far as to control its populations with the fear of the unknown. A civilization raised in a stable environment will probably always be more concerned with materialistic excess and popularly judge its worth by who has the most toys. Citizens will bask in the glory of conquering each other with specific rewards dealt to those who can conquer the free-thinkers through oppression if not death.
But as I said, I am searching for something more: like a character who dances in the rain and the sun. Someone who is not afraid to experience tragedy when the sky is blue and the winds are low. Someone who is just as alive at night as during the day. A character who seems to get everything clichéd backwards, but is still someone you want to get to know better.
Perhaps beyond a character might be an entire civilization that manages to find joy in nature’s wrath because it is the most opportune time to prove its worthiness for all life has given it. Rather than finding pain and suffering in all that has been lost to catastrophe is the looking forward to redesigning something new or stronger than existed before; a people who look forward to living as much as they look forward to death; as opposed to living in fear of either one. Perhaps a better society that tends to treat its terminally ill patients as humanely as it does its pets.
In thinking about setting, I am no longer interested in what is, or what has been, but what could be; and isn’t that what we should all be striving for in the first place?