I want to talk to you today about the storytelling concept of Setting - the environment your Hero-self exists in.
Setting saturates a story with mood, meaning, and thematic connotations. Broadly defined, setting includes the region, geography, climate, neighborhood, buildings, and interiors related to a story. It also suggests passage of time (source: Courtney Carpenter, Writers Digest).
I had an A Ha! Moment this week about how my Setting affects me, and it came as a ‘D’oh!’ (said in my best Homer Simpson imitation).
I’ve been feeling really shitty lately. Despite all my awareness and efforts to live in balance with my depression and its Best Friend, Anxiety, I’ve been having a couple crappy days. Days of feeling lost, panicky, and finally, on the edge of hopeless. Restless nights of heavy, looping thoughts that will NOT stop, even when I mentally run through all the words I can think of that start with the letter M. Then S. Then… you get the idea.
When these “storm fronts” roll in, I hate it. It’s like being dropped back into a pit that I’ve spent so many years teaching myself how to climb out of and avoid.
So, I made myself meet up with a dear neighborhood friend to take a walk outside and get out of my head. During our trek over icy sidewalks and through steep snow-banks, she asked me if I had Seasonal Affective Disorder.
No. No, I don’t think so… I love living where there are four seasons.
Wait. It’s almost February. February has been hard for me before… ‘D’Oh!’
Over the many chapters of my life, I’ve never registered a strong connection between seasons and my equilibrium. I don’t know enough about SAD to claim it for myself, but my current “storm front” coincides with a similar bout two winters ago. Hm.
What does all this have to do with Setting?
Authors know that Setting reflects and helps shape their Hero’s story. The Hero’s environment can amplify her emotional state and her struggle, as well as her competencies and accomplishments.
Ever hear someone say, ‘She’s in her element?’ or, “She’s running with a bad crowd?”
A Ha! Winter, apparently, is not a great season for my Hero to feel totally “in her element.”
Wearing my Author hat, I recognize that I have choices I can make about the environment my Hero is experiencing. For me, personally, that doesn’t mean I plan to move away from the Great North. But, with an awareness that deep Winter seems to throw my Hero into a depressive tizzy, I can seek and find ways to lessen the impact.
How about you? Is there an aspect of your Setting that’s knocking your Hero down for the count?
What changes can your Author-Self make to your life story's Setting?
Take a moment to consider your physical environment, work environment, circles of friends or colleagues. Your commute, your locale? Even your ancestral influences (In our family/culture, X has always been done this way…)?
Can you move? Change neighborhoods? Surround your Hero more with beauty, or supporting friends, or a better work environment? What about exploring ways to bolster or buffer your Hero’s experience within a Setting (like me, with deep Winter)? More ideas: play with feng shui in your personal spaces, disengage from negative peers, break up your routine...
Me, I’m going to look out for mood-boosting opportunities to take photos outside - go on a treasure hunt for beauty during cold, grey days. And, if and when I feel too shitty to do this, I’m gonna be patient and kind with myself, because the Author in me knows the “storm front” will pass.