The Diner: Post Three (Setting)

In the previous part, I took a look at the basic concept of “The Diner”, and examined just what I’m hoping to accomplish. I quickly determined that the character and the mystery were the most important parts, and would be difficult to build separate from each other.

That leaves setting, which is by itself in the background. This post will explore why I chose “a diner” as my original setting, whether this location still fits with my needs, and some of the finer details about the location.

The intention of this story is to focus on the two characters, their interactions, and the questions introduced near the beginning of the film. It requires a contained location, where characters might stay in one place without drawing attention to themselves. A diner fits these needs, but it supplies much more.

Because a diner is only semi-secluded, it can provide the intimate conversation between two people, but it can also offer larger stakes should the conflict escalate. It provides the opportunity for the protagonist to attempt escape, and other hostages that might be hurt as a result of the protagonist’s actions.

A diner is a place where one might expect the same character to visit at around the same time most days, which could prove important if it turns out that the villain was stalking the hero and chose this location specifically.

But a bar fits all of these criteria as well, doesn’t it? Why did I choose a diner, rather than a bar, or an office, or any of a dozen places that might have worked?

What do you think of when you think of a diner? I always think of lunch in a booth, sunlight streaming in through large windows, friendly staff, and good food. There’s an expectation of happiness, warmth, and safety that comes with a diner by default, at least for me. When I think of conversations in a diner, I think of banter and joking, a casual kind of friendliness.

The flash of a gun shatters that sense of security. The impact of putting the character in danger is heightened by starting them in a place of safety. This is why a diner is perfect.

So for now, diner it is. I can always go back and change this if I need to.

What kind of diner is it? A chain? Mom-and-Pop? Where is it located? Where does the story take place, in the larger scheme of things? And why the lunch hour?

My instincts say it should be a small, Mom-and-Pop diner, one with a personal touch and maybe not too many customers during a lunch rush. This gives us fewer secondary characters–and more of a chance to get to know and care about them. It also gives the main characters some breathing room during the opening scenes, makes it more plausible that no one would notice the villain has taken the main character hostage.

Where is this diner located? I say near downtown, close to the main character’s workplace. This gives us reason for him to come here often (good food within walking distance). Downtown where, though? I’ll go with the U.S., because that’s where I live and what I know. Since the story isn’t about setting, there’s no reason to make things more difficult by requiring me to research another country. Some U.S. city. We don’t even need to specify right now.

And why the lunch hour? I’d always envisioned this story to take place almost in real time. The hour is the ticking clock. Add in some time on the front end to introduce the character and lay clues to the mystery, and some time for the climax, and we have a nice 90-minute film. As mentioned before, setting it during lunch hour rather than just any random hour that he goes to the diner will allow me to introduce the character’s work, which will undoubtedly either factor into the mystery or serve as a red herring.

I could include side characters and specifics about the diner in this part, but, I’d prefer to describe the diner in the moment, rather than so far beforehand. When I get to outlining, I might start introducing elements that I would just have to add, anyway.

In the next part, we start working on the main characters and the mystery. That might take two or three posts, but we’ll see.

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