Give Your Setting Character

This discussion touches upon settings, locations, and how to give them personality and character.  During film script format criticisms, it is often heard that setting stands out as a character. Get to know how you can place your characters and story systematically in this video.

Using Setting As A Character 

Every setting is a character. The world that a writer creates in their screenplay story structure needs to contribute to the characters and the story. In fantasy or sci-fi genres, the setting plays a huge role because there are specific rules of that particular world. The world of the script contributes to the narrative. So, the world that the writer creates needs to be a character. This is because there are rules in that world that should be unique and have texture to them. 

Does the setting need to have goals and growth like characters?

The simple answer to this is no. It just needs to have geography and a clear tone. The world needs to embody something visual about it to elicit a feeling. The reader should be able to feel the world around the characters. Otherwise, there’s something obviously lacking from the screenplay story structure. For example, Baby Money, produced by SAN, had the primary shoot location of one house. So, the house has a specific geography and function in the story.

The writer needs to imagine these things in their mind’s eye. So, they don’t need to add these details into the script. But they should be able to tell what’s going on around them. The way things are organized in the setting is there to elicit an emotion or feeling from the audience. There is a psychological reason behind it because we, as people, want to keep our spaces clean and organized. There’s a parallel in the environment of the story and the environment of real-life.  So, the audience need to be able to have a clear vision of the setting in which the characters active. 

Same Place, Different Emotion

Let’s start this off with an example of New York City. It is a location for many different kinds of movies and shows. The same location can elicit different emotions because the audience sees it from the perspective of the character. 

The filmmaker may want to project the city as bright in one project and dark and scary in another. It depends on the interaction between the character and the environment. The way one person perceives their environment is different from another person’s perspective. And so, writers need to remember that when they have characters in a story, they are establishing a setting. 

Writers should view their locations as a character simply because they deserve as much detail. However, writers shouldn’t add these minor details in the movie script format if they don’t contribute to the narrative. However, the writers need to know this information themselves, especially as a screenwriter, because they are trying to elicit emotion. The production design, furniture setting, etc., and the lighting are manipulated to make the audience feel something and stimulate feelings. 

Sometimes there are unfilmables in the screenplay story structure. These help in establishing the tone of the script in general. Writers should not overuse these unfilmables. However, it is fine to add in a couple in act 1 to help establish the setting. Save the details for the setup to elicit an emotion. 

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