by Amanda Stevens
The South of my past is chock full of freaks, weirdos and nut jobs, and I say
that with the utmost affection. I love the absurd.
Put it this way--I'm much more entertained by the Southern characters in Hush,
Hush, Sweet Charlotte than by those in Steel Magnolias.
I was born and raised in Bradford, Arkansas, population 720. To the
passing stranger, my hometown would probably appear as just another nondescript
farming community along old Highway 67 (also known as Rock and Roll Highway).
To me, it's a sleepy hamlet nestled between the swampy hunting ground of the
White River monster and the shadowy foothills of the Ozarks, an area steeped in
legend and folklore. I grew up listening to my dad's ghost stories so I
come by my fascination for the paranormal honestly. I'm drawn to the
morbid and the macabre, and like a lot of Southerners I know, I'm a little
obsessed with death.
My characters also dwell in the South because setting should be more than just some dot on a map. It should be a character in and of itself, a place you feel in your bones, deep
down in your soul. It should have history, presence, moods
and voice. And when it interacts with the human element, setting as character should shape, challenge and even occasionally defeat.
What are your favorite examples of setting as character? Is there a place you return to time and again in your stories, a place you (and your characters) feel in your bones, deep down in your soul?
For a gritty, bleak, utterly compelling example of setting as character,
check out Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell.