This week I'm introducing our first challenge with Yolanda and me at the helm. We will be taking it in turns to host challenges and this first one is one that I've been wanting to do for a long time.
|Spectacular setting at the tip of New Caledonia|
So, does it matter where your story unfolds? Yes! Here are some points about setting:
- Your setting can help reveal your characters and plot (think Harry Potter and friends--the settings add so much to the plot)
- Setting is far more than place--it establishes a story's mood, feeling and historical era.
- Setting gives your story veracity--the truer your setting, the more believable the fictional world you invite your reader to enter. (The old write-what-you-know thingo.)
Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then; a black dog suffered on a summer's day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.
It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid-October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie, and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved, and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.You might disagree that Chandler's excerpt is about setting. Maybe you just think it's about his wardrobe of the day. But there's the precise time (11am, mid-October), the weather, Marlowe's voice, character and point of view, and the setting (Marlowe's calling on four million dollars). It sets us right in the scene.
SETTING AS MYSTERY
Even if your story's not a mystery, you can establish questions in a reader's mind via your setting. Check this excerpt from a short story by Lisa Lenard-Cook entitled 'Wild Horses.'
Neighbors watched for her little pickup along the country road. Sometimes Althea would pull over, or not pull over, and stop. Janet Kendall once found her sitting on her tailgate in the middle of the road just over a rise, had slammed on her brakes and skidded to a dusty halt just short of the rear bumper.
We landed at the port of Boston and traveled across country by train, in boxcars fitted out with special seats, reaching Iowa City on July 5th. With the help of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, which advanced us much-needed money for our journey, we were able to secure a place with the Willy Handcart Company, and although it was late in the year to begin the crossing of the plains, our party was anxious to set out, for nothing less than Zion awaited us in the mountains in the west.
Two examples: George Eliot's Adam Bede and Shield's Unless.
1. It is a very fine old place, of red brick, softened by a pale powdery lichen, which has dispersed itself with happy irregularity, so as to bring the red brick into terms of friendly companionship with the limestone ornaments surrounding the three gables, the windows and the door-place...
2. On a December morning I went walking hand in hand with Tom in the Orangetown cemetery...The cold weather had broken, and the tops of the old limestone monuments, sun-plucked in their neat rows, were shiny with melting snow.1. The setting is reported as if it were a gift from author to reader. This is accomplished by using vague adjectival clauses ('very fine'), 'happy irregularity' and lacklustre verbs like 'is', 'has'.
2. The vivid point of view first person narrative, we are looking at one thing, rows of gravestones. Even the limestone seems clearer to the reader.
Setting is always clearer when viewed from one pair of eyes, rather than an omniscient third person point of view.
So, when you're creating a setting, don't settle for the tried and trite. Make your setting work for you and for your story.
I'm hoping this blog post sets the scene nicely for our upcoming challenge on August 19th!
Couldn't resist reading the first chapter of Harper Lee's 'To Set a Watchman' available here online if you missed it!
Here's the first paragraph. Check out the setting. Don't we get a similar feel as the familiar voice of Harper Lee draws us into the landscape:
ince Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical. Over her breakfast coffee, she watched the last of Georgia’s hills recede and the red earth appear, and with it tin-roofed houses set in the middle of swept yards, and in the yards the inevitable verbena grew, surrounded by whitewashed tires. She grinned when she saw her first TV antenna atop an unpainted Negro house; as they multiplied, her joy rose.Here is a link to a Writers Digest article on SETTING.
So watch for August 5th, when the link-up for our inaugural challenge, Spectacular Settings, will fire up!
Join the Spectacular Settings Flash Fiction Challenge August 19 - Prizes awarded @DeniseCCovey & @YolandaRenee http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2015/07/spectacular-settings-mean-spectacular.html #WEPF