Monday, September 08, 2008

Location, Location, Location

What I'm reading: Their Greek Island Reunion, by Carol Grace

What I'm writing: Chapter 18.

My sister-in-law sent a gorgeous picture of a weekend hike to Mt. Jefferson. It reminded me that I've still got a couple of sets of workshop notes from RWA.

Today, it's Anne Solomon's workshop: Location, Location, Location: Setting as Character. I chose this one because first, I absolutely detest writing description, and second, because with one exception, I keep writing books set in places I've visited, but don't live. But whether your book takes place in a real or made-up place, it takes place somewhere.

What is setting? Pure and simple, it's the physical place in which your story unfolds. This includes the time period as well.

Setting can be large, such as city vs. country. Think about how a movie might have a broad establishing shot, then move closer

and closer still, until you can see individual details clearly. You can use all in your writing.

About 20 years ago, a new job led us to a new setting. So, given the parameters of the city, and some limits on how far away from the job we were willing to live, we narrowed it down to neighborhoods. Having 3 kids at the time, schools were high on our priority list, as were enough bedrooms to keep them from killing each other. From there, we began to change the details of our setting. New landscaping, new furniture, new decorative details. This house had a fireplace with a wooden mantel. Up went my husband's skull collection (not human, I assure you.) One daughter said, "What do normal people put on their mantels?" The answer: "Animal skulls. Some really weird people put bric-a-brac and mementos or pictures, but skulls are the norm." (She didn't buy it, but it wasn't her mantel to decorate.)

You probably have the luxury of choosing your setting when you write. But did your characters also have that luxury? Use setting to deepen and enrich your characters. Force them into a new environment, see how they react.

What details to you choose to reveal when you're writing? How does your character see and react to the setting you've created. Think of a room. Furnish it. Then have an artist walk through the door. What does he see? What about a construction worker? A soccer mom? Then flip it. Choose a character and describe a setting that character would inhabit.

Setting is not neutral. The words you choose matter. Make sure you're setting the right mood, tone, and point of view.


Dara Edmondson said...

Good post. The first pic looks like a postcard, beautiful! Skulls might be normal decor in say, Transylvania!

Terry Odell said...

My sister in law took the first picture. There are some places where you can't NOT take a postcard shot. I want to live in one of them.

As for the skulls - well, are you sure you still think I should host the holiday party? Or should we change our annual party to Halloween?