Writing Active Setting Book 1: Characterization and Sensory Detail

Writing Active Setting Book 1: Characterization and Sensory Detail by Mary Buckham Page B

Book: Writing Active Setting Book 1: Characterization and Sensory Detail by Mary Buckham Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Buckham
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    A NCHORING THE READER
     
     
    So... how do you initially show the Setting in the scene? One thing to remember is that the reader does need a quick "anchoring , " probably in the first few paragraphs of a new scene or new chapter , or a change in location. Where are we? What time of day is it? Is it quiet or noisy? What is the quality of light?
     
    Note: U se of light can show time change. Instead of telling the reader it’s twenty minutes later, show them by the cast of late afternoon shadows, the glare of the sun directly overhead, the quieting of the birds as dusk falls .
     
    The reader will be mentally asking these questions, and the longer you keep the information from them , the less they will focus on what you want them to focus on , and the more removed they will be from the story and the characters , waiting to figure out the where, when, who , or why.
    Once you’ve established or anchore d the reader into the where using a strong Setting description — let th e characters interact with the Setting , move through it, pick th ings up and brush past them .
     
    Note: I t’s important to let a reader know the passage of time since the last scene or chapter ended because readers will want the sense of how much time has passed since then.
    Whenever there's a n introduction of a Setting that’s different for the POV character, or for the reader , you’ll want to use a few words of description to orient or anchor the reader into the new environment. For example, we always notice what's changed — you might not notice an object on your mantel every day, but you do notice when it's missing. If this object was foreshadowed earlier in the story, say a beloved photograph, by now showing that it’s missing, the reader mentally sees the rest of the room that you’ve already established , but also knows where the POV character is. We’re in that character’s skin seeing what was once there and now is not. So instead of starting this scene with the character re-entering the living room, you show the reader that the first thing the character notices when she enters the living room is the gap on the mantel . The space where her mother’s photo was. Bam! We’re in that living room without spending a lot of time redescribing what th e reader has already been show n .
     
    Look a t how Laura Anne Gilman orients the reader as to where the character is physically in space and gives a hint of the protagonist’s back story, characterization of two different characters, and a hint of potential conflict between characters through her description of a room. All in only one paragraph!
     
    The only way to describe J’s place was “warm . ” Rosewood furniture against cream-colored walls, and touches of dark blue and flannel gray everywhere, broken by the occasional bit of foam green from his Chinese pottery collection. You’d have thought I’d have grown up to be Uber Society Girl, not pixie-Goth, in these surroundings. Even my bedroom — now turned back into its original use as a library — had the same feel of calm wealth to it, no matter how many pop-culture posters I put up or how dark I painted the walls .
    –Hard Magic – Laura Anne Gilman.
     
    Now let ’ s dissect that paragraph to see the power of the individual parts .
    The only way to describe J’s place was “warm . ” [S ubjective emotion from the POV character that gives a hint of her relationship with the room’s owner. Plus we are able to get a quick sense of the feel of a place; we know when we’ve been in a warm or cool room even if we don’t have too many details yet . ]
    Rosewood furniture against cream-colored walls, and touches of dark blue and flannel gray everywhere , [N otice the pieces of furniture are not described because it’s not important to know there’s a couch or two chairs in the room. It’s more important to get a sense of the owner of the room by his choice of subtle and understated colors and the wood of his

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