Every Sunday, the feature SHANNON MUIR’S MYSTERY OF CHARACTER on SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF focuses on the art and craft of writing from Shannon’s perspective, or gives you insight on her process as an author.
This week features Shannon looking into how location affects character development.
This is a radically revised version of a past column that Shannon Muir did for a sister site.
I start out building and fleshing out characters and their personality traits before I focus on what location and background a character might come from to evolve into what the reader knows as they turn the pages. As I then decide what story builds around this character, part of that process involves deciding where the story should take place, and if it is a similar or different environment to the location that influenced the character backstory.
What may follow is finding that the original intended character profile doesn’t quite work, or that the story becomes even more effective by virtue of the fact the character is a “fish out of water”. The local culture may have specific aspects that affect characterization. A character having come from a large city versus one in a small town won’t act the same if placed in the opposing environment. In fact, a character raised in one environment and goes to another is a common motif. In this case, the character’s mismatch to the environment impacts story.
Sometimes, the location of a story does not impact character development. A character may fit in quite well with the location of the story – perhaps almost too well. However, this often means that the tension and drama for the story must come from other sources – such as how the character interacts with others.
Until next time!