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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Strategy # 1 Habitat Highways: An Ordinary Day

Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact


Any habitat, animal, or human, has a natural cycle within it. Patterns that adhere to seasonal cycles as well as daily often become instinctive. Consider what changes you make in your own habits  between summer and winter. Eating, sleeping, working all fall into a natural rhythm based on the character and responsibilities of home. Whether they will appear in your story or not, they will be an inherent characteristic of your protagonist.

Have a conversation with your main character. Ask them about their mornings as a child, as a teenager, or adult. What images or verbal work details do they use as description? Write them down in your research notes.

For example, look at this ordinary day excerpt:

            “From the barn I see my mother on the back porch washing beans,
            my little sister with her dolls there on the stoop, my father
            leading horses from the field.

            Morning sun crawls up, a yellow dog just waking,
            stretching one leg and another, then
            its wide-mouthed fiery yawn. I rub my eyes and push
            my hand behind a plank, grope until my fingers
            close around the edges of a wooden box. Crouched

            He stands inside the door, his hat pulled down, a bridle
            Hanging loosely in his hands. Behind him, sunlight
            Makes shadows dance across the dusty floor.”
by Craig Crist-Evans.

We’re going to examine this excerpt in more detail in a later strategy, but for right now stare long enough to get a visual impression and note what it suggests to you as Hodgins suggested in last week’s blog. I have deliberately not listed the title so as not to influence your reaction.


1. What kind of place are you seeing? What emotions do you apply to this reading? Pick out specific words that you think contribute the most emotional weight.

2.  This opening image is actually not the setting of the main story, so why do you think the emotional connection it implies might need to be the first impression of place—a heart map impression? Does it feel like a habitat to you? Why or why not?

Share: What one word would you choose to summarize your response to this reading?

Read deep, marcy


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