Friday, July 22, 2016

Enhancing Your Story Through Setting

When you tie your character to a setting, you enhance that character and in turn, enhance your plot. Through best-choice description, you can highlight the mood and tone of the story and thus the inner landscape of your protagonist. 

Obviously, you can surround your character with a setting that reflects circumstances and attitudes, but you can also highlight character by showing the difference between their gloomy or desperate or sad feelings by placing them in a setting situation that is just the opposite of those feelings. This is a little trickier, of course. You have to maintain your character's inner landscape while conversely surrounding her with gaiety if she's unhappy, gloominess if she's sweet and sunny, etc.

 So here's your exercise for the day, a few minutes of practice to sharpen a setting to its finer points. And since I, too, could use some practice (always), I'll put on my writer's hat (well, I'm always wearing my writer's hat) and try to keep up with your brilliance.

The exercise: Introduce a mood by writing about a particular setting. You can make the place dark or light, gloomy or happy, mysterious, etc. What happened here? A murder? A marriage proposal? A car crash? A birthday party? Why is that house significant to your character? What took place in that meadow?

My setting:
Upon entering the house, you first see that plaster litters the foyer floor. It crunches underfoot, and even that small sound echoes in the emptiness. Straight ahead is a staircase to the second floor, the newel post lies at the bottom of the stairs amid the plaster.
When you walk into the old-fashioned parlor to the right of the foyer, you see that the stained cabbage-rose wallpaper has spiraled to the floor in strips. The sooty fireplace is missing bricks and the mortar is crumbling to dust. There is a Victorian settee, its stuffing pillowing out in places where the cover is torn. An ornate broken picture frame lies in the corner in two pieces. Plaster has fallen from the ceiling in this room, too, and birds have flown in through a broken window and built their nests where rotting bare ceiling beams are exposed.
Upstairs, a stained bare mattress lies on the floor of the largest bedroom, and the closet door hangs from one hinge. In the bedroom down a hallway where the walls are lighter in places where family photos once hung, the room is empty but for a rag doll lying in the thick dust and bird droppings on the floor. In a bathroom farther down the hallway, the claw-foot bathtub is stained with rust around the drain. The hardwood floor is water-stained and rotting. The silver backing of a round mirror on the wall has eroded and reflection is blurred.
Back down the splintered staircase, and across the foyer and out the door, you can almost forget that the place once housed a family.

Okay, so I was going for abandonment. I'm not sure I got there, but it was good practice. Hope you enjoyed your own practice work.


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