Thursday, May 3, 2012

Location, Location

Alright, I've been busy these last few months with college, and I've neglected my writing blog. If any of you were hinging your budding writing careers on that, I'm sorry. However, school was the higher priority. Now that it's summer and I'm looking for a job, I have a lot more time on my hands, and it's back to blogging. If you have any suggestions for subjects I should cover in the summer, let me know in the comments below.

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It is the scene where your story takes place, a montage of locations and areas into which the characters venture at least once. Setting is the world of the story, the fabric through which the characters sift in search of their goals. As one of the basic elements of writing, setting is vitally important to any story.

It may surprise you, but there's a lot to setting. There are certain components that always crop up in novels, constants that are vital to the story. We'll run through a list of the basics that make up the setting in a novel, and how they affect the story.

1. There's No Place Like Home

In most stories, there's a certain place that the main cast of characters call home, a place they always return to. It can be an actual home, a base, a headquarters, a ship they're traveling on, but whatever it is, it's the thing they always return to. They have emotional and physical ties to the place, so they always go back there.

One example of the home area of a setting can be found in Fablehaven, where the grandparents' house is the area that the main characters frequently return to, and spend a lot of time there. In dangerous situations, the house is a safe place (at least in the first three books; I think the place gets thrashed a few times in the later books) that the characters can go to and find refuge. It also serves a prep and launch pad into more dangerous areas of the story.

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The Atlantean ship Destiny from Stargate Universe. (It's a wee bit bigger than it looks, trust me)

Another example of the home area can be found in sci-fi shows like Stargate Universe and pretty much all of the canonical Star Trek series. In these shows, the home area is the ship the cast is traveling on. This setup is unique because it allows the cast and characters to go looking for trouble without leaving the safety of their home areas. The audience naturally gets familiar with the ship itself, since the characters' day to day interactions take place in them. And in an area like this, characters that would normally avoid each other in real life are forced to interact with each other, since you can only get so far from a person on a ship traveling through space.

2. "One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor"

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Don't ask me how long I spent looking for this.

In most stories, you also have, for lack of a better term, 'Mordor places': the region where the bad guy/bad guys call home or headquarters or whatever. Because, let's face it, even bad guys get the longing for home every now and then. 

Mordor places are generally places one simply cannot walk into (unless, of course, you are the bad guy). They're filled with booby traps and ferocious beasts and the mounted heads of heroes that were defeated by the bad guy. There's also this perception that all sorts of dark, mysterious secrets abound in a villain's evil lair. Whether or not these perceptions are true is irrelevant, since the purpose of Mordor places is to present a challenge to the heroes and offer them an environment that isn't cozy and warm. Mordor places also make for a nice change of scene.

3. Detail

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Consider this description:

There were several items on the table, not the least of which was a bowl of fruit, and for some reason, Christmas ribbon stored in a mason jar. Sunlight streaked through the window, falling across a worn spray bottle on the edge of the table; a placemat hung limply over the corner of the table, a set of retainers and a glass keeping it from slipping all the way off. 

The same paragraph, without description:

There were several items on the table: a bowl of fruit, a mason jar, a spray bottle, retainers, a placemat, a glass. Sun was coming through the window.

I get daily prompts from a writing website, and today's advice was that when you write a setting, you could almost imagine it as a person. Settings, after all, do have personalities, and often reflect the people that inhabit them. Mordor obviously reflects Sauron and evil in general; it's a wasteland of blackened rock and poisonous air. Lothlorien had an enchanting and mysterious air because it was home to the elves. The Shire was pleasant and lively because it was an idyllic place with people far removed from the reality of war and darkness.

So all told, setting is important. Nuffsaid.

And your weekly dose of Twilight-bashing. . .

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I never got what the deal was with Naruto, but I guess killing rogue ninjas is cool. I'd definitely stick with anime over Twilight (unless it was Twilight anime).

Additionally, I would like to add that I'm cowriting a fantasy story blog with a fellow blogger of mine named Silver Sico (Silversico? silversico? silverSico? It's some combination of silver and sico). Feel free to check it out; it updates every Monday and Thursday. The website address is below: 

UPDATE: I stand corrected. They have Twilight anime. Take me now, Lord. This sphere has grown too cruel.

1 comment:

  1. O.O Who would have taken the time to make that crazy detail piece (the color pencil pic)? So cool...