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SETTING —THE LAYOUT
Geography can encompass a world or a galaxy, yet, as you've learned from previous posts, it's best to limit a setting. This means the setting will be a small, but ever so important, piece of that world or galaxy. For instance, the bridge of a space ship cruising the galaxy, or the bedroom of an old Victorian house on a hill, or maybe a rabbit hole in a forest where a fairy is visiting.
Setting should be thought of as an island from which there is no escape and which forces characters to interact (either willingly or unwillingly) with the environment or with other characters (or beings, or entities, etc.).
Geographic limits work to logically tie the story's scenes together from the world overview down to the protagonist's kitchen sink (where he or she might be scrubbing a lasagna pan unaware they are a madman's target).
Because a scene's settings is so important, a wise writer will search for a picture that helps them visualize what's in the setting and exactly where things are. If a photo isn't helpful, at least draw or sketch a diagram of the room or building. Again, that sketch helps a writer visualize the setting. Included in that sketched setting will be props and other details (like light sources, entries and exits, etc.).
Here is an exercise that I've had my students do:
1. pick a scene from your story
2. draw or sketch the floor plan for that scene's setting
3. draw or write in the props (what decorates the walls, the furniture, the machinery, technology, etc.)
4. mark the light sources and shadows
5. mark the entrances and exits to that setting
6. denote colors of walls, flooring, etc.
Now, have someone read back your text concerning that scene. While they read the words, walk your character through the setting diagram (or picture or sketch). You may be surprised to find that what you imagined was not what was written onto the page. For example, finding the protagonist exiting into a closet instead of the front door. Or, why did your protagonist go all the way into a dark room to turn on a table lamp when there was a light switch right inside the doorway that they could have turned on? (Both of these examples came from my students and is used with their permission.)
Which brings me to props—those items that not only decorate a scene but which come in handy for the characters to interact with as the characters move around and, in particular, handle. Such interaction with props means you can write "beats" instead of using "he said" or "she said" speech tags. More on props next month.
Above all else, whether you narrow your setting down by using drawings, sketches, or pictures, remember to think about and include the wonder of your world. And be sure to show it through the narrating character, who should be your protagonist because he or she is profoundly affected by that setting and only has the items in that setting to work with.
**** Next Month: 2019 November - Props
****Nanowrimo - good luck to those embarking on a month of writing, writing, writing!
And to make that an even better draft—or to self-edit it when you've completed the story, get —
Great Reviews, like—The more I read this book and note all the steps I need to revise my YA novel, the more I learn about how to better write my book in the first place. This is a fabulous book that every writer should have on their reference bookshelves! -Kathy E.
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