The World as a Character
Sometimes you read a book or see a movie where the setting, be it a house or a climate, is integral to the story. Any other choice would change the feel of the book, losing impact and possibly the reader.
Lost Horizon by James Hilton is a great example of the world as a character. Set in the mythical utopia of Shangri-La, the characters fall under the spell of this world. It changes them. Just being there starts to undo the damage done by the outside. It is a place of healing and peace. The catharsis they undergo would not be possible any other place.
The foggy moors in The Hounds of the Baskervilles, the Mist in Stephen King’s book, Tara in Gone With The Wind, all provide an environment that drives the characters on.
In GWTW everything is about Scarlett getting back to Tara, protecting Tara, bringing it back to its glory. Scarlett will do anything for her family home. It is her one redeeming quality because it involves her dedication to her family…and one of her worst vices as she schemes and manipulates others for her purpose. It is her driving obsession.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy by Tolkien. Mt. Doom. Sauron’s domain. The bad guy. The one who uses Gollum like a puppet to steal back the ring. The place Frodo must go to rid the world of the Ring. It dominates the story even when it isn’t mentioned. We know from the start how important it is to all involved. Every obstacle rises up just to keep the two hobbits from reaching Mt. Doom as it looms in the distance.
The first is Bridge to Terabithia. The land just over the creek. The imagination of a young girl creates an entire world she shares with her friend. When she dies, he introduces his sister to the land of wonder where anything is possible.
And the second? Avatar. The entire planet is a living entity capable of communing with the beings that populate it. Who they are and how they live is completely bonded to the world they inhabit. And a beautiful world it is.
So there it is. I’m sure there are dozens more. Just consider amping up your locale when writing and making it one of the characters.
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