Friday, April 10, 2009

April showers and...A dark and stormy night

April showers make most people think of flowers in bloom. But to the romantic suspense writer in me, it also makes me think of dark and stormy settings for my stories.

I'm glad you're with me on this Friday. I'm Lisa Mondello, one of Friday's CRAFTIE Ladies of Suspense. Since the weather is warm and rainy, with a little bit of fog floating over my garden, I thought I'd talk about setting in stories.

When an author writes a setting well, it's almost like another character in the book. But it's not just the town the story is taking place in, or the buildings or houses the scenes are happening, it's the location and weather and obstacles of the landscape that all work together to create drama and suspense.

Let's take this scenario:

The villain has just taken the heroine to a lighthouse at the end of a narrow peninsula and the hero needs to save her before the villain kills her. It seems simple enough for the hero to do the job on a bright sunny day, right?

Now make the lighthouse up on a hill.

Now make the lighthouse only accessible by a narrow foot path.

Now make it night.

Now make it foggy.

Now make it raining to the point where the hero has difficulty seeing.

Now make a windy Nor'easter blow up the coast during high tide.

You don't have to throw the kitchen sink in your story. But as you add detail to the setting, the simple rescue on a bright sunny day isn't so simple anymore. You've created drama and suspense. That's not to say that drama and suspense can't happen on a bright sunny day. They certainly can. But you could use another element to create drama. A fast moving river the character needs to cross. A boat that is sinking with the character still inside.

One of my favorite settings for a "last stand" is in the movie Thunderheart with Val Kilmer. The sun is shining on the reservation. Val Kilmer and Graham Greene are tucked away at the bottom of the mesa with nowhere to go. The FBI is surrounding them and Val makes a bold and heroic move. He and Graham turn and walk toward the mesa in what looks like certain death. I don't want to give any spoilers but let's just say it was a great and suspenseful scene that uses setting well. If you haven't seen the movie, put it on your NetFlix list.

Are there any books or movies you've read or seen where setting is use to make the suspense more compelling? If so, leave a comment and let me know. You'll be entered into our monthly drawing to receive 4 Love Inspired Suspense books.

Until next time, many blessings, Lisa Mondello


EllenToo said...

The book I just finished reading is one that comes to mind. The hero and heroine have just climbed down into an ice cave to see if the villain has stashed a bunch of drugs there when the villain pulls the ladder from the cave and strands the two in the ice cave where if they don't find a way to get out they are going to freeze to death.

Lisa Mondello said...

Cool, Ellen. What was the name of that book?

PamelaTracy said...

Isn't it funny, the movie (not book) that comes to mind is The Wizard of Oz. I think of the tornado and then Oz and how I was as enchanted with Oz as I was with Dorothy's plight. And the black moment when they were running through the field and fell asleep.

EllenToo said...

"Burning Secrets" by Elizabeth Sinclair. Just reviewed the book on eHarlequin's book challenge.