I'm on holiday, living it up in Alberta my old stomping grounds.
Last weekend we celebrated my parent's 60th wedding anniversary (60 years without a restraining order) in a town called Stettler, Alberta, where my folks live.
I lived in Stettler for three years before moving to Saskatoon almost 6 years ago. I know the place, know many of the people. Or I thought so.
My sisters and I had worked for months on the anniversary party and had intended it to be an open house tea, a come-and-go afternoon. It started at one o'clock. At three minutes past one the hall was filled. People jammed in, filled plates with sandwiches, fruit, cheese, vegetables, pastries, and pickles, filled cups with coffee and tea and punch. Our come-and-go had turned to a come-and-stay.
No one left until four o'clock--the hour we had given on the invitation to end the celebration.
I happily pointed this out to someone I had known when I lived in Stettler.
"That's small town, folk," he said. "You've been in the city too long, Bonnie."
I'd planned the party from Saskatoon.
We lived the party in Stettler.
When I was in Saskatoon, it seemed important that people RSVPed. I needed to know numbers so I could plan the food, how many tables to set up, how many chair covers we'd need.
When I arrived in Stettler, I walked downtown and ran in to old friends who I would casually invite to the party.
"Just come. There's plenty of room. Lots of food."
Setting is everything.
Setting--a part of Story World--dictates so much in story. It is a character, and it moves characters around the story by its organic pulse. It is geography, buildings, technology, and environment, but it is also the below the surface stuff of character, social classes and how they work, mythology (some places are spooky, some are tragic, others bright, nearly divine), speech, and habit.
Setting means the ghosts of the place's past walk the streets and peek in the windows of the residents' homes.
Setting dictates whether a character hung up on the details of an anniversary party is dedicated, or a show off. Whether a character's uncanny ability to show up whenever there's a crisis makes her an angel or a devil.
In all truth, I've reached the end of my depth of insight today. Being on holiday has turned my poor brain to mush. Happy mush, but still mush.
So, you tell me what you have noticed about the power of setting, either in your writing or your reading.