Monday, March 08, 2010

Setting: not just the pretty flowers, but the sneeze

One of the reasons I've gotten so bogged down in my WIP is that there is a major change of setting. For some weird reason, that setting change threw me for a loop.

Why? I couldn't wrap my head around this strange experience. I'm the kind of writer who loves writing about bizarre universes and made-up realms, and here my characters finally leave the regular world, ready to explore a new magical environment, and my creative energy blows out? This is not my kind of problem. I should be relishing the moment when all hell is about to break loose, not yearning to send my heroine back to the comfort of her kitchen.

But upon reflection, it all makes sense. After all, setting isn't just the icing on the cake--it's not just the pretty flowers around the edges of the action. It's also the main character's allergic response to all those gorgeous daisies. Setting is what sub-stands (holds up) and sustains the action. It affects the logical relationships within scenes, limiting what actions make sense. It also colors more than what happens in the story, shaping the characters' emotional responses to the action and giving those responses extra resonance.

In this weird new world, my heroine isn't going to function at her normal level; I have to dig down into her character and try to figure out how she'll respond to new challenges and strange experiences. Not only do I have to envision the new environment, but because the story is from her point of view, I need to describe it in a way that helps my reader experience the new world the way my heroine experiences it. The descriptions also need to provoke a tension within my reader, tossing out little whispered hints about what might happen in the storyline and underlining the thematic elements of the piece.

On top of all that, my characters experience a new power dynamic in this place. This is going to affect the way they respond to their environment, too. So I need to re-evaluate the direction their relationship is moving and try to evoke that through word painting. Some of this is going to be 2nd draft stuff, but with any luck I will capture a little of it the first time through.

Really, the heroine's kitchen is looking better and better!

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