For those of you that aren’t UK based, the climate this summer has been pretty miserable and, in this particular instance, I’m talking about the weather. So, when the sun actually made its first appearance in what felt like months, we decided to brave it and camp… in our garden. Now, we have a big tent (there are 5 of us), and it did take up most of the garden. But beyond the fun, there’s something about the confined aspect of it all that got me thinking.
There is a reason some books that want to focus on the relationships between characters have settings where the protagonists are forced to interact with each other because of confined spaces. Camping is a natural one, and books like Five go Glamping by Liz Tipping and Five Days on Ballyboy Beach by David J O’Brien (apologies for the five theme, it is actually complete coincidence), utilise this method to great effect.
Campus-based novels often do this too, especially where the university is merely the conduit for pushing the characters into a single battlefield, time and time again. My novel, Lost in Static, uses this setting for that exact reason, as does the first third of Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and (on a more romantic note) The Deal by Elle Kennedy.
Then there’s the ‘entrapped because of external events’ scenario – think The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (children trapped in an arena and forced to kill each other) or The Lord of the Flies by William Golding (children trapped on an island becoming increasingly savage) – where the boundaries are imposed on the individuals by the setting, forcing them into action (or inaction) for the purposes of (usually) survival.
Which brings us right back to weather, with the classic (for a good reason) use of weather as the confining element, where people are trapped indoors because of a snow blizzard, sandstorm, or high winds, adding natural tension to any situation. And who doesn’t like tension in their fiction?