Monday, July 7, 2014

Using People as Setting

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to Yellowstone to celebrate our anniversary.  We had a lot of fun, and there was a lot of amazing sights. 

As we traveled, I started thinking about how I would describe it if it were in a story I wrote.  I guess that’s proof that a writer’s mind is never still.  I’d focus a lot on the geysers, the smell of sulfur, and the formations created in stone.

Then there’s the never ending landscapes, trees and mountains.  It almost feels like you can see for miles. 

For some reason, there was something about the dead trees in the middle of the large basins that just amused me.  I think I took way too many pictures of those.

There’s no way to mention Yellowstone without talking about the wildlife: deer, elk, and buffalo. Of course, I can’t really tell the difference between any of them, so I didn’t really take pictures of those.

But when I think of our visit to Yellowstone, I wouldn’t stop there.  When we arrived at Mammoth Springs, we got there at approximately the same time as 2 tour buses of Asians.  It was a madhouse trying to take a picture of anything without having someone jump into the way. 

Many of them thought I was part of their tour group and tried to talk to me, but I didn’t understand a word I said.  And once they realized I was with my Hispanic husband, we got many confused and perhaps disappointed glances. 

They were people, visiting a National Park.  Yet for me, they became a large part of my visit.  If I were to describe the setting of Yellowstone, the tourists would be a large part of the setting.  I didn’t know any of them personally.  I had limited interactions with them, but at the same time, they were a major part of my visit.   

I didn’t take any pictures of them, since I wasn’t sure that would be appropriate. 
When I describe setting in my stories, do I think about the people that surround my characters?  I don’t think so.  But they don’t live in a vacuum, there’s always someone around.  In The Stone Mason, Rowell goes to school.  Yet, I don’t think I ever described the other students. 

What do you think?  Can people be included in the setting description?