I can say that, after a short trip to Key West, Florida, I’m more interested than ever in the concept of “setting as character”. Key West is so rich in history, personalities, and opportunities that you’d have to be made of wood not to see the story-telling potential in the place.
After walking around the streets and docks of the small island, story ideas and plot lines just started sprouting. I’ve already got a heist-caper halfway planned out in my head, thanks to the rich environment.
And paying as much attention to the small, mundane details while soaking in the big, overwhelming ones helped me germinate those idea(s). Roosters are everywhere and crow constantly. Half the tourists seem to be from Europe, the other half from Boston. Street performers–smiling and laughing when playing to the crowd–counted up their one’s and five’s behind the shrimp shacks, worried expressions on their faces. Noticing and jotting down almost invisible details like this are going to make my setting that much richer.
Talking to people at every opportunity helped place them in their element, making them rounded and accessible; characters I create later will hopefully take on a more realistic shade because of the great conversations I struck up at the restaurants, bars, and sights. Many, if not most, locals are transplants and have worked a dozen jobs in their time on Key West, just trying to scrape enough money together to stay one more year. People sleep together, cheat, marry, divorce, and date…and almost never leave, making going out on the town problematic.
In short, I was reminded again that setting can be a powerful tool–sometimes a personality of its own–in nearly any story I write. Key West is going to figure prominently in mine for some time to come.