Intro: All kinds of goodies can lie simply within the time and place in which your story lives. Commerce, religion, art. You name it, you can evolve or devolve any of them to the liking of the environment you wish to create, or find plot seeds through those aspects factually if you are doing a creating a story based on true events. Legendary Pixar writer and director Brad Bird says “Use every part of the buffalo.”
Top 5 Ways to Use a Setting to Dramatic Advantage
- A language barrier.
- Sticking out like a sore thumb among those of a foreign culture.
- Not enough space.
- Too much space.
- Superior, inferior, or simply new technology in the way of transportation keeping a character or characters stuck in a location.
- There’s no surer way to set the stage for tension than verbal miscommunication, but it doesn’t have to be clichéd. Maybe the hero lands in a world in which he doesn’t realize that his native language, though all of the citizens can understand it, has been banned for some reason. Maybe she can only be understood if she speaks in rhyme. Maybe he is only allowed to speak in double entendres, and they make him feel uncomfortable.
- I remember being stuck in a Japanese airport as a teenager with my redheaded friend. She asked me, “Why are they all staring at me?”
- Cramped quarters are an open invitation for physical as well as romantic comedy. Claustrophobia.
- Get lost in a wide field, can’t see/hear each other over sitting on opposite ends of a long dinner table in a mansion, agoraphobia.
- I knew of more than one person who, during their first year in Japan, made the mistake of thinking that they were supposed to board a certain train based on the color of the train itself, as opposed to the color of the character on their ticket that matched the character on the side of the train.