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

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Strategy # 2 Holy Landscape: Literal Connections

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


Landscape includes interior and external sites, emotional connections, literal space, and geographic background. It includes the climate, weather, topography, and amount of daylight. Each of these areas has the capacity to silently boost the sacred connection between reader and character by allowing the reader to identify with the literally tangible, yet subtle details.

For example, in the movie The Count of Monte Christo, Edmund Dantes spends many years in prison. According to the above list, his landscape is cold, damp, rocky and dark. His literal landscape also becomes a mirror image to his emotional life. Even when a landscape is confined to one room or is a silent backdrop, we can use its natural attributes to influence our scenes.

So how does this translate to practical application? We begin a piece at a time and build the world from emotional resonance. We not only draw out our physical locations, but doodle out the emotional impact they have on our characters. We brainstorm each setting’s location, even if only as a brief two-minute list. If you see something that triggers an emotional reaction, but you’re not sure how to use it, then put it in the resource pile for later.

When you read for research, pick out the parts that intrigue, comfort, challenge, or frighten you. And temporarily leave the rest behind. Keep a list going as to where you found that information, so if you need to return for more details, you’ll find it easily. It’s a banquet laid out before us and we can’t possibly eat it all. So we pick out the best parts first, in case we get full. Or try to cram more information into the story than it needs. The parts that stir our hearts, the parts that we react to emotionally, become our map routes, our mirror reflections, and our atmosphere internally.

Externally we discover our connections through landscape, as Elizabeth George explains it. To her landscape is “the broad vista into which the writer actually places the individual settings of the novel, sort of like the canvas or other medium onto which a painter has decided to daub color……when we discuss landscape we’re also talking about….the emotions that are evoked by the setting.”
She continues, “…landscape is the total place experience in a novel.”

The Chateau d’lf used in The Count of Monte Christo movie is a real place, built in the early 1500s as a military fortress and later turned into a prison.

Share: What literal climate, weather, topography or daylight can become an emotional mirror for your character’s internal struggle?

Read deep, marcy

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