Thursday, September 11, 2014
Strategy # 3 Historic Landmarks: Maps
Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact
In her book of essays on fantasy, Touch Magic, Jane Yolen states, “Follow a story through its variants and you are following the trade routes, the slave routes, the routes of a conquering army, or that of a restless people on the move.”
Our world’s ancient trade routes have disappeared from this form, but the idea, I think, continues. Witness any real interaction on a plane, or at a terminal, or even standing in line at a bank. If two people really begin a conversation, it leads to a story saying who they are, where they came from, and where are they going. And often that includes or becomes a reference to a specific landmark or territory.
It is up to the storyteller, Yolen, feels, to take the magic that comes through sharing theses stories and pass them on. Although Yolen addresses fantasy in this essay, all genre forms teach that life has consequences. “It holds certain values to be important. It makes issues clear.” It has to tell the truth: good, bad, joy, pain, or peril. “It is a series of image-repeating glasses, a hall of mirrors that brings past and present into focus and call it the present. ”
The map goes on whether inside or outside because the route is always changing. We as authors are never the same at the beginning of a book as we are the end. The book itself is never the same at the end as we have imagined it to be at the beginning. Not only does it sometimes not even come close to our initial image, but sometimes there are parts to it that surpass our understanding. So we go on to a new story, a new route, a new sharing of ideas or values or questions.
In our writing, as well as on the roads we literally travel on, we continually need to read the directions to understand where we are, to make sure we haven’t gotten lost. What does that sign say? Danger ahead, construction work in progress, slow down, curve ahead, slippery, speed limit. The landmarks of the story become as much a part of the journey as the destination.
Choose one location that your character goes to on a regular basis in your novel, whether you usually detail it or not. Make a list of other routes to take to get to the same place.
Note where particular landmarks fall on each route—natural or man-made.
Have her take an unfamiliar route and track her internal emotions alongside side the external landmarks.Then have her take this different route in the morning, mid-day and late at night. What changes?
For example, does the large oak tree on the corner look shady and comforting during the mid-day sun, then menacing at midnight? Which effect will rattle best in your scene if perhaps your protagonist is being chased, or thinks she is?
Share: What most noticeable change did you discover?
Read deep, marcy