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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Writing Adventure/Setting

I like to periodically change the Arizona photo I use at the top of my blog. So yesterday I switched it. And I have been completely inspired by it. I will even come back to my blog a few times a day just to gaze at that picture.

It's amazing what one simple photo can do. I look at that beautiful vista visible through that arch of rock and I see potential, beauty, adventure, and hope. I want to scramble beneath that arch and get the full 360 degree view of all that panorama has to offer. As the blog title suggests, Arizona Inspiration--and so much more.

But writing is like that. We are a more visually oriented society than ever before, but writing is also a powerful tool that can also bring out potential, beauty, adventure and hope.

I'm currently reading Write Away by Elizabeth George. One of the topics she discusses is why setting is so important. I think as writers we understand most of the purposes of setting instinctually, but it is good to be reminded of them because we can lose sight of them as we get lost in the myriad details of our novel.

* Creates atmosphere
* Triggers mood
* Gives an indication of the type of novel you're reading
* Triggers emotional response
* Can be a metaphor
* Is used to reveal character
* Can act as a contrast to some event that occurs within it
* Can heighten the emotional reaction of the reader

That's a whole lot of good reasons to perfect our use of setting in novels. Also intriguing to me is the concept of using setting to trigger an emotional response, although you may not trigger the emotional response you'd intended. For example, I cannot count the number of people who associate the desert with hard times. Not only your average man on the street, but it has been a recurrent theme in writing--even the Bible uses the desert to indicate a bleak landscape--something missing.

When I read that use of setting, instead of the reaction that most people would have, I think, "No way. To me the desert is about strength, hope, perseverance, beauty, and potential."

Take another typical setting, for example, a fast-paced city in a contemporary novel. For most people in this day and age, that draws them to think of culture, entertainment, exotic food and intellectualism. For me, a city setting would be how most people view the desert--bleak and desolate.

BUT a good author can craft their words so well that they draw you in--get you to see the setting the way their character envisions it. Ms. George proposes that's why it all goes back to characterization. Every other aspect of your novel funnels through your characters.

Definite food for thought. I hope to share more tidbits as I continue to read on in her book. I'm only up to chapter four, but I think this is a good book on writing to have on your bookshelf--the kind you like to mark up and highlight all the key pointers.

Have a blessed Sunday!

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