So, sit back, relax and enjoy!
First off, thanks for letting me park here for the day. I’ve brought friends. Okay, not so much friends as characters – some of them aren’t very friendly at all. They heard I was stopping by and they insisted on coming with me (and I learned a long time ago that it’s pointless to argue with the voices in my head, so here we are).
But that’s okay. There wouldn’t be much of a story to tell without characters. They’re the guides that lead the reader through every strange, new landscape they encounter on the page, and that means that, at heart, no matter how alien the setting, the characters need to be somewhat familiar.
There’s the awkward new kid, Marina. We’ve got the angry loner kid, Tobin. Anne-Marie’s the best friend. And then there’s Rue - the weird kid that everyone’s kind of afraid of.
But there’s also one more character that I think gets overlooked in a lot of stories, and that’s the setting itself. Silly author-person, that’s crazy talk, you might think. Settings can’t be characters; they’re not alive!
Actually, they kind of are.
A science book will tell you that your skin is the largest organ in your body (Technically, on your body, but science books aren’t grammar books, so I’ll let it slide.) Similarly, the biggest character in your book, and the largest personality anyone else will interact with is going to be the setting. Just like a single person can set the tone of a room when they enter, the setting will set the tone of a novel. Everyone and everything else will react to that tone; it’s pervasive.
Setting can make a character feel safe, or afraid. It can be beautiful or terrible, the same as any living creature. It can be the goal, if your hero is trying to find his way home, or it can be the enemy if he’s alone and freezing to death on top of a mountain during a blizzard.
For Arclight, the setting is definitely a huge component of the story, bigger than I first realized, to be honest.
The Arclight itself started off was originally conceived as a space ship, but it became an Earth-bound compound of connected buildings that are shielded within an “arc of light.” (Think of a dome made of lamps.) Like a spaceship, it’s got bright corridors and metal doors.
It’s less pretty than it is functional. It’s impersonal, like a machine, and its sole purpose is to protect those who live inside it.
You can’t have a space ship without outer space, and that’s the Dark. Also brought down to Earth for the sake of the novel, the Dark is a void of nothing. It’s the thing outside the window that will kill you if it gets in. It’s menacing as a monster in the closet, and no matter which window you look out, it stares back at you without flinching.
As much as Arclight is a story of identity and survival, it’s also a story about the dominance of light vs. dark. The light and dark become juggernauts facing off with each other across the divide, which is the Grey. The Grey is dead-space created where the lights hit the shadows and neither is strong enough to overtake the other.
Places have personality, and settings have souls. The story can’t exist without them because they provide the air the characters breathe. They are the literal breath of life for the entire novel, and they are most definitely alive.
And that was Josin L. McQuein everybody! Betcha can't wait to get your hands on a copy of Arclight now! Wait for my review, or don't, but even without hearing my opinion in flesh first I'll assure you, you'll want to buy a copy! Gives me shivers reading her post, settings are real and they have so much more effect than you realise!