Your Environment: The Other Character

Today’s blog post was inspired by this excerpt from the comic, Breaking into Comics The Marvel Way. The passage from which it is taken focused on advising new comic book artists:

Include more backgrounds to give us a better sense of place. Think of your background as another character in the story and use it to help enhance the storytelling and the world your characters are inhabiting.

While the writer, C.B. Cebulski, was talking about comic art, his advice could just as easily apply to fiction writing. It’s so easy to forget the importance of the background. When developing a story, we’re often trained, formally or informally, to think about sentient characters and their development.

But the background, and here I mean the environment or the setting, is critical to your story in that it provides that layer of texture that grounds the more ethereal qualities of dialogue and action. Not only that, but it’s also a key element in differentiating your story from all other stories. And by thinking of your environment as a character, you can really flesh out its nuances and peculiarities.

I suggest writing up a character persona on your environment. And finally, think about how that persona interacts with the other characters in your story. What do each do for the other?

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