I was interviewed recently by the Editor Chick, also known as Nancy LaFever, on using setting as character. Does it get any better than Chicago for inspiration?
Setting as Character
Skilled fiction writers know the book’s setting is a crucial element, and if executed deftly, can become a key character in the story. But as with any character, the reader expects consistency, authenticity, and real dimension in order to be engaged.
Author Dana Killion’s debut thriller, “Lies in High Places” is set in Chicago. A long-time resident, her use of the city’s landmarks, unique vibe, and history are an integral part of the book. I asked Killion to talk about her choices and the process of incorporating the Windy City’s personality into the work.
EC (Editorchick): As a reader who is familiar with and loves Chicago, I enjoyed the role the setting played in the book. How do you maintain the authenticity/grounding in the setting without it detracting from or overshadowing the story?
DK: Chicago is such a fascinating, multidimensional city that I saw no other option but to treat it as one of the characters. It has history, culture, political intrigue — basically a full cast of components I used to inspire action and deepen the story connection. The opening scene in “Lies in High Places” was inspired by real-life expressway shootings. I simply mixed the incident with Chicago’s history of political corruption and a story was born.
EC: As an editor, I felt you successfully balanced the role of the city with plot and character development. Talk about your process.
DK: The way I think about it, the role of setting is simply to add richness to character and plot. I read to get lost in the life of a protagonist, always. That’s what draws me in, the connection with a character. While Chicago is ripe with inspiration, my protagonist Andrea Kellner and her journey had to take the lead. I could then use Chicago in all of its magnificence to inspire scenes and other characters.
EC: So, I understand this book is first in your series. Will Andrea be taking off for parts unknown in the next book?
DK: With all I have to work with, Andrea won’t be leaving Chicago anytime soon.
Link to Nancy’s site is here