Tuesday, September 17, 2013

3T Writing Tidbit

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.

Setting is one of my "opportunities". Here are a few things I've learned regarding setting.

  • Setting is not backstory. It is necessary. Set your scene with a word or two even if that setting is inside the character's head.
  • The easiest way to think of setting (for me) is the brief pan of The House, or The City's Skyline that introduces a TV scene. Pick your favorite show and watch for the establishing shot--you'll see what I mean.
  • Setting questions you can ask yourself: What's the climate for this time of year? What's the quality of light? What kind of buildings are there? Terrain? What are ordinary people wearing? Are there a lot of people or none? What are the ambient smells? What feelings does the place evoke (e.g. graveyard=scared; beach=fun; dark alley=isolated) (note: you can flip or skew these expected feelings for some fun, scary beach, fun dark alley).
  • I've said this before but it has even more application with settings: use contrast and concrete images to evoke immediate, strong images. A graveyard can be described as "desolate, wind-swept, haunting and gray" but it can also be described as "A pale girl in a gray, old-fashioned coat standing over a new grave, tears scoured away by the wind".
  • In an action scene, sprinkle appropriate setting words through character interaction. For example, "She ran through the dry fallen leaves, dodging gravestones thrust up by roots."

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