Saturday, January 28, 2012

Writing Novels: 7 Unusual Ways to Develop Your Setting

Welcome, friends. I hope all is fab this week. This is my last post about novel writing. In February, I will continue my Golden Advice series. But before we move on, let's think about setting. I always see setting as another character in the book. Like all characters, especially such an important one, I must work hard to slant the details in an original and proactive way. Here are some uncommon things that I do to help me bring "Reality" to the page.

1. Scrap. Scrap is cut-out or cut-and-pasted photos, paintings, any visual images --collections of everything that you know about a setting -- this includes clothing, your characters (they are part of the setting too!), stuff in their pockets, the knife, the oatmeal, the bubble path, the blood....put all together to help you create a sense of place. Not sure about your setting, make a collage of your scrap. Stare at the collage especially before bedtime or nap-time. It is VERY helpful to fall asleep staring at your scrap. Wake up and begin writing about your setting. See what happens.

2. Write a letter to your main character about your setting problem and then write another letter from your character to you, answering your questions. If your main character doesn't have a clue, ask some of your other characters.

3. Make a list of the top 5 places that your character absolutely would not like to go. Be sure your character is going to at least one of those places in your novel.

4. Draw a map and make a line indicating your character's path through your story. Is there any place she is not going?

5. Stop thinking about it and start writing. The process of writing can jar your brain and make you put begin to block out your scene. Make a commitment of 30 minutes a day for a week and write without stops for the whole time. Does anything emerge?

6. Think about your experiences. I have climbed in space shuttles, walked over lava beds, crawled into giant pipes, braved dank dark caves, jumped off of building, rolled under the bed, put on waders and headed into mountain streams. Characters often go where you have been. Daydream about that and see if anything pops up in your memory. Let that inform your story setting.

7. Sometimes you have try stuff out to get it right. Jump the fence, climb on the roof, hid under the bed, go to the park and swing. Take your notepad and write down everything -- smells, tastes, visuals, textures, sounds. Don't forget this stuff: pressure, vibrations, and proprioception (sense of how your own limbs are oriented in space). Really digging deep into perception can help you develop your novel's setting.

So there are 7 things that might bring some jazz to your story setting. I hope you pay attention to the details. See ya next week.

This is a guest doodle from my son. "Still Life" by Jesse Blaisdell. Check out his website:

"Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else..."
Eudora Welty


Faith Pray said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Molly! Besides being totally amazed that you've jumped off buildings, I am holleringly excited to try your tips for my blank scene. Nothing has quite clicked yet, so I'm going to try a collage and staring at it just before bed. I love these ideas. Brilliant!

Candy Lynn Fite said...

Ugh, how do you do it, Molly Girl? I think you're #1 on my "writer-inspire" list these days. I love these ideas about setting. Afraid I'll have to refrain from climbing trees, jumping from tall buildings, etc. I think my spine doctor would have a cow! (I haven't told anyone, but surgery is in my very, very near future.)

So, if I need specifics about building hopping, can I call you??

Trudi Trueit said...

Great list of inspiring tips, Molly! Building jumping, huh? Yow!

MollyMom103 said...

Faith! Candy! Trudi! Hi! I was little younger when I was jumping out of buildings. I used to go to neighbor's two story house and we'd all climb on the roof and jump onto their trampoline. Later, I went to a fireman training class and one the things you had to do was dive out of the third story window and land in a net below. It was fun so I did it a bunch. I've also rappelled off of much higher spots. Have I mentioned I have a bad back?

Candy, (Sorry about your back!)
I hope that something here shakes loose that scene. :)

Faith, I tried to think of the unusual things I can do a word cloud too. Here is the link:

Trudi, wish we were still over the hill because we could go for hot tea.