Kate Elliott teaches a Master Class for the 50th annual Willamette Writers Conference

As part of the 50th annual Willamette Writers Conference, Kate Elliott is teaching the Master Class, Masterful Worldbuilding: The Intersection Between Setting and Character on Thursday August 1, 9:30-3:30.

Whether a story is set in our world or in a secondary world (one that exists only on the page), the author is nevertheless creating a landscape in which the story takes place. This Master Class will explore the meaning of landscape, environment, and setting as both an external and an internal map. The external map includes the crucial features that anchor narrative worlds—physical geography, cultural ecology, and features we can see and pin down. But characters exist within that map in complex ways. People and societies have an “internal map” that orients how they see the world, and influences their choices and the perspectives they cherish, reject, enforce, and share. In narrative, characters understand themselves and their relationships to others according to this internalized map.

Through exercises and discussion, this class will examine methods and approaches that build a rich, immersive setting, and learn how to frame your characters within the landscape rather than the world (whose details set a shallow stage that is little more than a façade). By really digging into the intersection between character and setting, it’s possible to highlight setting in narratively meaningful ways that also deepen characterization.

Photo: April Quintanilla