Saturday, March 2, 2013

Is Your Setting Hiding Behind a Bush?

What about setting?

Does your dialogue take over; so much so that you have no idea where your characters are standing, what colors surround them, how it smells in the summer where they are standing?

Yes, for some of us, using setting is sort of like plucking our eyebrows, either we do too much or we do too little.

What do you think this woman is saying to herself? What does the setting reveal?
Photo by: titoy', courtesy of Flickr
Here's how to balance it.

Start with what you do best. If it's dialogue, go at it. Get those characters speaking. If it's setting, get it all out; the smell of the grapes, the taste of the watermelon, how the light flickers off of  her hair, but get it out.

Now, after you've finished with your chapter, go back and fill in the gaps. You'll know where they are. Either you'll have dialogue with characters sort of floating somewhere, or you'll have tons of setting that is beautifully written but that really doesn't move your story along. Read what you've written out loud and make adjustments.

If you find that your dialogue and setting is fairly balanced, good for you! Go on to chapter 2. Continue the process until your book is finished.

If you need some help with dialogue: Record some dialogue at a restaurant you're at, in the bus or at a park. Play it back at home. Notice how people really speak and incorporate that into your story.

If you struggle with setting: Cut out some pictures from a magazine. Use them in a binder and when you feel the block coming on, open up the binder and choose a photo to write about.
Your setting might be beautiful, but is it too much?
Photo by: thekeithhall, courtesy of Flickr

You don't want your setting to get lost behind a bush, but neither do you want it to stand out like a sore thumb. You want readers to finish your book, not get bogged down because of all of the setting details.

I'm done. Now have some fun.

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