Archive for June 1, 2011


Creating Setting (continued)

My friend Night-mare wrote a response to my blog here and of course, that got my brain thinking of some advance techniques for playing with setting. If you want to see the first part of Creating Setting, go here.

Advanced Tip for Setting

Night-mare mentions how different characters should have different feelings when it comes to their surroundings. A person’s background and experiences will always color their perception of their surroundings. Now, the easy answer is to match the internal mood to the external: if your main character is depressed, make it rain. If your two main characters are having their very first romantic kiss, have a perfect sunset hang behind them. If the villain has just appeared, have a lightening storm.

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I’ve always been fascinated by people’s philosophy about writing. It seems everyone has a different opinion: even when people agree, it seems as if everyone’s method is just a little bit different. I tend to ignore advice about when to write – what time of day is best, for example – because I feel that it is entirely subjective according to a person’s schedule. When I was in high school, the best time for me to write was at 5 PM until 8 PM every day because that was the time after I got out of school and before dinner. On weekends I tended to write at the same time because I’d grown used to it. When I started college, my hours were a lot crazier so I tended to write later at night – around 7 PM until 9 PM since we ate dinner later. When I went to grad school, my five month old puppy woke me at five in the morning every day to go out, so I tended to be awake a lot longer so I wrote from 8 AM until 10 AM, when I needed to either play with her or go to class. Also, because I tended to have very late classes, I tended to go straight to bed after coming home instead of staying up to write.

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I like my story with a lot of layers. In most of the creative writing classes I’ve taken, the how-to books I’ve read, and even in online chatrooms and face-to-face discussions with other writers, the issue of setting always comes up at some point in the conversation. Where is the story taking place? What time period? What’s the flavor of the story like?

While knowing what century your medieval castle is based off of is great, there is more to setting than the physical and geographical parts of it. Setting also has to do with backstory. Movies are especially good at this because the opening scenes in general give us a chance to interpret a number of things before any action takes place. You get a sweeping view of the landscape, maybe a few scattered conversations, some shots of the main character (so you know who to pay attention to) and some nice foreshadowing for later. In writing, you don’t necessarily get that time to ease the reader in before the action starts, but the concept is the same. Your main character has a history you will never see and a future you can only speculate about.

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