One Crazy Thing I Do With My Settings
So before I switched back to mystery writing, I wrote epic fantasy. (I'm still working on my epic fantasy stories. It took Tolkien a life time to do his work, I'm just working outside the genre while I perfect the fantasy stuff.) I watched this nifty little course on YouTube call Write About Dragons. It features Brandon Sanderson and was somebody's graduate thesis. Depending on which season you watch a couple of episodes in he expresses his opinion about how a lot of writers don't take enough risks with setting, leaving their risk taking for plot twists, and characters. So I spent a few months chewing on that in back of my head. And finally I came up with an answer as to how to make the setting more interactive. Find where the setting attacks or graces my character. That's right, I decided to make every setting I had attack my characters in some way, shape or form and every setting give the character something in return.
For example, I wrote a short story this summer about some lost fireworks. What would the setting do in the middle of a mild Midwest summer? A heat wave seems a little too obvious to me. But then, this area is remote. The lack of witnesses would add a complication. The dirt road adds a complication. The lake if sniffer dogs were used adds a complication. The setting, in short, was attacking both my villain and my detective. It also gave both my villain and my detective something. So pullout your favorite scene and ask yourself, what can this setting do? How can I get it to interact with my characters better? The best stories make you feel alive in the place the happen.