Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Settings, Seasons and Sensibility Create a Lasting Sense of Place

Details make the setting
Falling leaves, the scent of wood smoke, the feel of snow in the air yearning for a mug of apple cider yet? There's nothing like grounding prose in a season and sensory details to create a sense of place that draws readers in.

Even if you're not from New England, or the U.S., you might guess that the opening phrase typifies a region that celebrates autumn. If I were writing about an area where autumn is more austere, Scandinavia, for example, I'd describe the slant of the sun setting early on a windswept landscape. Can you tell I've been watching Wallander?

Writers imbued with a strong sense of place a phenomenon frequently found in those uprooted early in life from a place they felt was home often instinctually include sensory details. The key is to use spare, precise language. Note that the opening description, short as it is, includes at least three of the five senses. It's also key to use details that exemplify the area you're describing.

Seasons evoke memory, stoke the senses and create memorable settings. They decorate stories as you'd decorate your home, with originality and a unique identity.

What part of the world evokes your most vivid memories?

Happy writing!

For more tips, visit Word for Words, or visit Adele's blog.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Shape of Your Fiction Propels Your Story

A story's shape propels it
If you were to draw your story, what would it look like? A diamond, a square, an oval, elliptical, a double or triple helix?

Every story has a shape. For example, does your piece start with a tightly written scene that includes only the main character, then balloon to include a cast of characters and meander to end in a tightly written tight shot of one character? This story's shape, comprised partly of the number of characters and partly of plot, is elliptical, like a football.

Writers aren't always conscious of shape while writing a first draft, but must become aware of it during revision. Intentional symmetry not the same as a forced or contrived form provides structure, is satisfying to the reader and establishes the writer as a deliberate and intentional craftsperson.

To discern the shape of your story, follow these steps:
  • Use your opening scene as a starting point, and draw a line outward, or inward, as your story expands or contracts based on the number of characters and continue drawing the line to the end.
  • Draw a mirror image of the line.
  • Repeat these steps in a separate drawing to represent the main plot points or events.
What do you notice about the two lines? Where do the expanded or contracted scenes intersect with the major plot points?

Tips: Where your story broadens may be where it needs trimming. Where it narrows may be where it needs expanding. To determine whether to expand or trim, consider what's happening at those points. Are the events essential? Can they be pared back or cut entirely?

Remember that the shape of your story creates the movement that propels it.

What are you working on that could use reshaping?


Happy writing!