Injecting Theme Into the Setting

Although I’ve already written a lot about theme, particularly in relation to character development. Today I want to go over how I’ve been injecting theme into the setting. It’s a quick-and-dirty way to reinforce what you’re trying to say with your story. Theme can help get your point across without beating the reader over the head with your message, as long as you’re not heavy-handed.

Injecting Theme Into the Setting

To quickly recap, the thematic statement is the position you as the writer are taking toward some issues. For exmaple, say your theme is about humanity versus nature. Your authorial stance is that nature always wins in the end. As a result, settings elements need to reflect that. There might be a location that’s been abandoned completely overgrown. Even a fancy country club with a full-time maintenance staff could have a few blades of grass coming up between the flagstones.

Each character will have a thematic stance, representing different opinions. You can mirror this by having different locations and setting elements reflect various opinions or approaches. Humanity is winning over nature, for example, because we’ve built these structures that can withstand the elements. We control the climate and keep the wilderness at bay. Another location might come with a set of events, like a hurricane or winter storm, that shows the destructive forces of nature.

To make all of this work, locations with a thematic stance should evoke an emotional response. Your description of events should have the reader saying “yay, humanity is winning” or “oh no, that’s another point in favor of nature!”. It’s possible to have locations and setting elements create emotional responses in your characters. This should reflect their thematic stances. A character on the side of nature will be pleased to see the weeds growing through the cracks in the parting lot. Someone else could be appalled at the same sight because they’re invested in the dominance of humanity. It all weaves together to create imagery, drama, and potential conflict.

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