Location as the Antagonist

Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 10/23/2007

Recently, I have seen more than one discussion of the location where novels are set. One had to do with the city playing an important role. Another was not so specific about which city or town it might be, but the topic for consideration was whether readers prefer a large city or a small town feel. In this case, a small town meant a setting in which people knew everyone and had time to sit out on the front porch.

One of the things that I thought about was how it can be fun to imagine being in a stress free environment. That is often what is thought of when people are thinking about a small town. In small towns, people are supposed to be more laid back. Having lived in a small town environment and a large city environment, I know that small towns are not without their own problems.

In many ways, the location that a story takes place is a character in the story. At times, it plays the part of the antagonist. Some small towns are quite remote, so the distance to what some people consider civilization can be a major influence. Usually, the worst thing that we can do to a character is the best thing that we can do for a story. A scene with a pregnant woman going into labor is no issue if the doctor lives next door in our ideal small town, but if we put her in a more realistic small town where the hospital is an our away, then cover the roads with ice we have added tension to the scene.

There is nothing unusual about a kid dreaming of playing professional football. Many kids have had this dream. Some will fail and some will achieve it, but it is possible for all. It is possible for all, that is, unless this kid lives in a place where playing football is not an option. The location becomes the antagonist and works against his goal. The character may be devastated, but the reader is thrilled.