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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Overview Setting: Landscape

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

Setting is either used as a backdrop and almost invisible, or as a character itself. For example, the Hobbit’s landscape includes a man versus nature conflict. Then as we discussed in Moon Over Tennessee, setting can confirm a genre such as an Historical: establishes place, historical framework, season, time of day, moods, atmosphere.

Again, when the reader is able to visualize it that makes it authentic. The common place becomes memorable as in the Borrowers. The setting needs to be authentic whether real or imaginary.

Three main categories help to establish authenticity. First is Landscape: which includes climate, weather, topography, land-marks, amount of daylight.

Once you’ve set the setting you don’t need to repeat every time. You add touches throughout to keep the focus or can repeat an important part often if it’s going to matter. For example if a tapestry on wall hides the clues to a mystery, then it should be seen often.

To brainstorm some ways to choose your basic setting here’s part one of an exercise I sometimes give my workshop students. Write a brief few sentences about a character hanging laundry on an outside line.

Seems pretty ordinary—perhaps even dull. At the moment it is only a beginning point of a possible reality, giving perhaps character and place, but not yet a voice; and perhaps curiosity, but not yet an authentic emotional connection.

However, I have yet to have any sentence even come close to matching another as each writer chooses the unique aspects that interest them and apply to their story world.

The character: boy, girl, man, woman, human or alien—what kind? Are they bored or anxious? Normal chore or forced labor?

Hangs laundry: how?—By old-fashioned string and clothes pegs, or by magic, or electronically? Is it a difficult chore or easy?

Outside line: where?—Isolated mountaintop, crowded slum, spaceship balcony, or cookie-cutter suburb? Is it dark outside or light? Windy or not?

The chosen detail for each key focus brings up several shapes to a simple sentence. By knowing a geographic habitat and adjusting it to reflect our character’s story, we can take common territory and transform it into new ground—even if it’s the familiar chain store on the corner.

Action Steps:

1.     Do a sentence for each of the characters listed.

2.     Which details for each did you like best.

3.     Combine all your favorite choices into one sentence structure.

Share: What is your sentence?

Read deep, marcy

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