Saturday, January 18

Michael Connelly And Narrative Setting

Once I begin thinking about something--setting for instance--I'll start to see mention of it everywhere.

Michael Connelly On Setting

For instance, Michael Connelly (he writes, among other things, the fabulous Harry Bosch novels) recently gave an interview to Noah Charney over at The Daily Beast (How I Write: Michael Connelly). Connelly says:

"What has inspired me for going on 40 years is chapter 13 [of Raymond Chandler's book The Little Sister]."

Right there Connelly had me hooked. (Keep in mind this is the first sentence of the interview. Granted, the interviewer arranged the questions, but that's a great first line.) One chapter has inspired Connelly for 40 years.

Anyway, Connelly goes on:

"In that chapter Philip Marlowe, frustrated by the events of the day and the case he's on, takes a ride around Los Angeles. He ruminates a bit on what is going on in his case, but the chapter has little to do with plot, and everything to do with the interplay of character and place."

When I read the above passage I was struck again by the extreme importance and power of the interplay between character and setting (as well as the importance of sequels--but that's a topic for another day). Connelly goes on:

"... he [Chandler] had grabbed the character of place and connected it to the character of his protagonist."

Ah ha!

Yes, while I was reading the article I actually said "ah ha!" and, excited, began scribbling out this blog post. (grin)

What Connelly is talking about here--this is my take on it at least--is setting as character. Also, he highlights the importance of connecting setting (as well as everything else!) back up to the protagonist.

As Dwight V. Swain says, something is significant in a novel to the extent it is significant to the protagonist.

The Neverending Series

I know I said this was going to be the last post in my series about setting but what John Truby says about the subject in his book The Anatomy of Story is just too good not to include.

On Monday I'll talk about creating the, as John Truby puts it, "exterior forms and spaces," of a story. I'll also touch on how these exterior forms are created from, how they are generated by, the essence of the story itself.

Stay tuned!

Photo credit: "Untitled" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. "As Dwight V. Swain says, something is significant in a novel to the extent it is significant to the protagonist."

    You got a lot out of Swain's book. More than I. Thank you for bringing more of his book to my consciousness.

    1. I did! And thank you for initially recommending DVS to me.


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