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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Strategy # 5 Honest Sensory Keys: Color and Light

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

“Dark colors lend themselves to dark emotions.” Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Often we relegate suspense to mysteries, thrillers, and adventure where in fact any genre can benefit from threads of suspense, especially when emotional or spiritual struggles are intertwined in the narrative action.

Let’s take a look at how honest sensory keys, with different details, can contribute to authenticity in three very different novels: two historical (this Strategy #5) and one Science-fiction mystery next month. (Strategy #6)

Suspense Example: Color and Light

First Example from Moon over Tennessee by Craig-Christ Evans

Here we return to the opening Strategy excerpt @ Strategy # 1 Habitat Highways: An Ordinary Day. Take out your first notes and see if your first impressions continue to hold with the additional section?

Remember this appears to start as an ordinary day:

            “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.”

What kind of scene are you seeing? What emotions do you apply to this reading? Pick out specific words that you think contribute the most emotional weight.
            “It’s not because my daddy thinks
            the South should fight against the North,
            but we’ve been so long a piece of Tennessee
            today we’re leaving for the war.”
From Moon Over Tennessee, A Boy’s Civil War Journal by Craig Crist-Evans.
How much does this sparse, yet detailed setting affect character and theme? Based on these few verses, what do you expect to happen?

As an historical setting this passage establishes place, historical framework, season, time of day, moods, and atmosphere. Its authenticity allows us to fully participate.

Look at all the touch categories and how their familiarity builds drama; washing beans, dolls, leading the horses, (both the touch of the reins and their breath on hands) rub eyes, touch plank, grope, and loose bridle.

What details show the weather and the use of color? Notice there is no decay and yet the potential for decay is hinted at. How?

Share: Which detail do you think had the strongest emotional impact? Why?

Read deep, marcy

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