Friday, April 22, 2011

S: Setting

Yet another problem I've found in my writing (if you want to know some of my other problems, just read earlier posts...) is the setting.

No, I take that back. I can see my setting well enough, but telling showing you the reader my setting is hard. I see it clear as day in my mind but struggle translating that image into words with slim to no adjectives.

My boss read the first six pages of my story the other day. He told me he liked it, but he mentioned he could've used a bit more description. Colleagues of mine had read the same pages three months earlier and some of their comments said the description of the antiques shop was too much. They recommended that I cut some to keep the pace of the story moving along.

Cut? Add? Embellish? Strip down? Who's to say which is correct?

My current crit group has pointed out a few scenes where they don't have a solid picture in their mind of how something looks. The fancy boarding school, the creepy monsters, they all kind of seem "blurry." Time to thumb through my thesaurus and find strong adjectives to add. And there's nothing wrong with taking a few sentences to set the scene. It's when you come across four or five pages of exact detail that the reader starts to twitch.

So, picture this if you will. A girl in her mid-30s spending the weekend bowling, eating chocolate, laughing, and making her nephews sick on mass amounts of Easter candy. I can't wait.

If you're celebrating this weekend with family and friends, I hope you enjoy.


  1. I am the queen of adjectives. I used to read the Thesaurus for fun - don't laugh.

    I taught a creative writing group for middle school students one summer and the best way that I coudld get them to describe something was to have them google what they wanted to describe. Then, they had to explain it to me as if I had lost my sight.

    Instead of a 'brown desk', it became walnut or cherry. Instead of using 'sunlight' I asked them to tell me what it felt like, what it looks like when it hits and object, does it burst through the curtains, or does it filter softly?

    Of course, by the end of the workshop, some of them were describing in detail every object/scene in their stories, but...that was someone elses problem then. :-)

  2. Oh, a favorite topic of mine. I recently had one of those lightbulb moments (at a workshop) when I finally saw the connection between voice and description. In writing description, especially for setting, I ask myself now, "Does the language of this description illustrate how the character *feels* about the thing/ place/ person they're describing?" Wow, huge difference in outcome.

    I also highly highly recommend the Seanan McGuire short story "Dead Man's Party" online at The Edge of Propinquity. It's one of her Sparrow Hill Road stories.


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