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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Strategy # 2 Holy Landscape: Welcome to Last Chance

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

Holy Landscape Case Study

“The red warning light on her car dashboard may have driven Lainie Davis to seek help in the tiny town of Last Chance, New Mexico, but as she meets the people who make this one-horse town their home, it’s her heart that is flashing bright red warning lights. These people are entirely too nice, too accommodating, and too interested in her personal life—especially since she is on the run and hoping to slip away unnoticed.” (Backcover Copy)

Below are some excerpts from Lainie’s first landscape reactions to this unfamiliar terrain. As you read them look at each as a mini snapshot. How does author Cathleen Armstrong use the landscape and physical details in her first chapter to connect Liane? How do you see them as possible literal and emotional connections to Lainie’s immediate situation?

Or use the questions from last week’s exercise and apply them to these excerpts.

She peered into the darkness rushing past. “Man, it’s empty out here.”

She dropped her speed by another five miles per hour and pulled into the slow lane. Just ahead, on the other side of a barbed wire fence, a small sign read, “Last Chance for food—22 miles.”

Out of the night, and barely illuminated by the last glow of the fading headlights, a sign of familiar size appeared. “Welcome to Last Chance, Pop. 743, Your Last Chance for the good life”
“What is this, a joke? There’s nothing here!”
On cue, the engine sputtered, wheezed, and died, and the car coasted silently to a stop on the empty road.

The little patch of sky she could see through the rear window held more stars than she knew existed and she watched them while the day’s events played in her mind. After a while, she heard a car door slam and an engine start and she rose up to see the pick-up pull onto the road with a spatter of gravel. The neon lights in the bar were gray shadows against the black window.

Tomorrow she’d find a way to get to El Paso and the new start she knew was waiting for her there. What was it those signs said? Last Chance for rest, for the good life? Maybe one more chance was all she needed. She was still looking at the stars and listening to the crickets when, enveloped by the hot smell of her cooling engine, she fell asleep.

Share: Which line had the most effect for you personally?

Bonus Exercise:
Go through your own first chapter and look at each landscape detail. Choose five areas to relate directly to your main character by adding a few concrete details.

Read deep, marcy

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