Thursday, June 26, 2014
Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact
“The tourist may look at a place and think ‘What does it do? What is it like? How much does it please me?’ but the fiction writer must look at a place and think ‘What does it suggest? What does it mean to me? What does it mean to my characters?’” Jack Hodgins
He suggests that in order to achieve this perspective, a writer needs to construct a place—“real or invented”—rather than describe it. By choosing specific details you both impress the landscape on your reader and connect them to the meaning of your world. Think habitat.
“Stare at your world until you discover what it has to offer you,” he says.
There are many ways to develop this focused center in any scene. You can begin from the inside out by imagining the location of your setting visually and finding just the right pieces to fit the emotional core. Or you begin from a natural habitat and focus on the specifics that define your atmosphere and story questions.
For example a setting on the moors can portray an image of beauty, wildness, danger, freedom and loneliness. An added element might be the choice of dwelling. Is the habitat an ancient stone castle weather beaten with crumbling bricks, a wooden hut, or a modern architectural masterpiece? How would each of these possible homes blend or contrast the physical geography?
A desert, ocean, forest, meadow, stream, canyon and island all have distinct characteristics. Even if your character will be interacting with all kinds of terrain there will still be one that is ‘home.’ One that will quietly represent a direct heart highway, either towards security, or away towards uncertainty.
Too early in your story yet to decide which habitat best suits your purpose? Try this brainstorm. If your character were to transform into her emotional habitat, what animal or bird, flower or tree, body of water, type of wind would she become? Where would you most likely find that setting geographically?
Read deep, marcy
Share: What in your character’s natural habitat could become a danger to him or her?
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Over the past twelve weeks we’ve looked at the definitions and concepts behind the words mythic and impact to examine timeless precepts for strengthening our stories. So how do we practically apply them?
In the synonym list above you’ll notice that not all the applications need to be radical. Fresh, creative, and groundbreaking are as effective at creating a unique impact as is inventive. Settings for your short story, or memoir, or novel may range from a quiet backdrop to a mega-world with a character of its own. But no matter which level you choose for the degree of presence, each still resonates with atmosphere, tone and mood. It is your choice how to boost their impact when relevant.
It’s important for us to first know the details ourselves. Just as we can walk around our homes in the dark, knowing exactly where we are, so must our characters. What is real to them needs to be real to us—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This provides authentic atmosphere, tone, and mood. But it doesn’t mean we need to invent everything.
In this free eight-session blog workshop we’ll examine eight key strategies to create impact for our unique setting regardless of genre. Each month will focus on one strategy with three or four applications and creative writing prompts to customize to your work. Whether you are just beginning a new project or are ready to revise, these suggestions will give you critical perspective.
Several of my clients have given me permission to use their settings as examples, so we will be looking at a variety of novel excerpts from contemporary women's fiction, romantic police drama, historical romance and adventure and mystery, sassy comedy, fantasy and a smidge of sci-fi, as well as a mythic world in my own upcoming series.
Read deep, marcy
Introduction June 26th
Workshop Sessions Begin July 3 rd
Strategy # 1 Habitat Highways July
Strategy # 2 Holy Landscape August
Strategy # 3 Historic Landmarks September
Strategy # 4 Hungry Territory October
Strategy # 5 Honest Sensory Keys November
Strategy # 6 Homespun Locale December
Strategy # 7 Harmful Dangers January
Strategy # 8 Hidden Secrets February
Share: What questions do you want answered for your specific setting? Send them to me via the contact link above and I will incorporate feedback and examples when possible in the individual lessons.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
For any story to have impact it needs to touch at least one seed of: basic needs, kindred spirits, compassion, justice, and many more themes that equal a timeless quality.
Why? That is a basic story question that must be answered every time to have a satisfactory ending. And it is a question each person struggles with personally in varying concerns throughout a lifetime. Throughout eras and history and science and faith.
Tobias says that theme is your inertial guidance system. However, to have impact, it needs to go deeper than a surface answer, especially ones that may only be plot devices. Even when the subject is a lighthearted comedy or romance the feelings, and questions, and answers, need to have real substance.
This is one reason I think why some considered poorly written novels and cheesy movies outvote critical reviews for popularity. Their heart has an essence that resonates in spite of, and maybe because of, many flaws. Readers and viewers identify.
The movie The Princess Bride was originally not a box-office success; yet it went on to develop a huge following when released to home videos. Many fans can quote the movie almost line by line and, according to wikipedia, a BBC film critic considers it a model to which similar films should aspire.
The Harry Potter series upended the publishing world with both positive and negative commentary. There didn’t seem to be any middle ground when it first launched.
From a serious viewpoint, one biblical prophet challenges his listeners with a timeless statement, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
Impact=Timeless. Seed fiction and non-fiction narratives with mystery, yearning, truth, hope, imagination, creativity; then add inspiration, memory, potential, action, and courage as genre appropriate. Impact=heart and mind and soul as unforgettable.
Share: What does your heart most desire in a story?
Read deep, marcy
Thursday, June 5, 2014
As writers we are all familiar with the hero’s journey, whether we choose to use that concept in our novels or not. And sometimes the criteria for what we first consider to be heroic characteristics can be multi-layered and even opposite.
One of the most interesting assignments I gave my college students was an essay assignment where they compared and contrasted definitions and interpretations re heroes and celebrities and everyday people. An article on Rosa Parks stated, “Perhaps the most interesting thing about her was how ordinary she was.” Almost every essay submitted included this quote.
And almost every essay came down to an opinion that courage defined a hero. The courage to act in a difficult situation that might be considered life threatening, as well as the sheer courageous action of a parent getting up every morning and taking care of the family. Most defined courage as commitment in action.
That perception of courage also became a comfort, because these young college students recognized that, while celebrities might rise and fall, commitment was a choice open to everyone—every day. And that often the courage may go ignored or unappreciated yet the ‘hero’ persevered regardless. It gave others hope to face their difficult circumstances.
Some stories require the celebrated hero, but for impact the core commitment needs to be grounded in everyday reality. There is a trust that this hero would be just as faithful day in and day out. Impact recognizes the courage of an extremely shy character speaking up in a public meeting, or an energetic rather loud extravert sitting quietly so as not to frighten a young child.
Our stories can resonate more deeply when we recognize and sustain the heart courage in action of our characters, especially the ordinary ones.
Share: What attributes define your heroes?
Read deep, marcy