Friday, August 04, 2006

Lesson 29: Setting

Yahoo! We made it to another weekend, and some of the heat has dissipated...Thank you Jesus! This week was a good example of why I want to avoid hell! Yikes! Did I say that...!

Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel. This is a fabulous book and I encourage each of you to buy it. What I'm presenting here is by no means a full lesson and there is a wealth of insight and additional info that will help you.

In case your just joining us...What I am attempting to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. We're done with Character Development, now we're moving on to Plot Development! Today's lesson is in Section THREE: Setting.

How many settings are there in your current novel? From how many POV's is each of them seen? Each outlook on each location is an opportunity to enrich your story. In your novel, how many of those opportunities are you taking?

Our perception of place changes as we change. The difference between a town as remembered from long ago and how it seems now is the difference between who we once were and who we are now. The same is true of characters in fiction. Take them anywhere and show us how they feel abut the place, or how that place makes them feel, and you will reveal to us volumes about their inner frozenness, or growth.

Step 1: Pick a high moment, turning point, or climax involving your protagonist. Where is it set?

Step 2: Write a paragraph describing how this place makes your character feel, or how your protagonist feels about this place.

Step 3: Move forward one week in time or backwards one week in time. Return your protagonist to this place. Write a paragraph describing how it makes your character feel now.

Note: There is something powerful about returning to to a place of significant action and discovering how it feels different. Pinning that down is using the psychology of place, that is, employing the perception of place as another way to measure change.

Follow-up: What is the setting that recurs most often in your novel? From whose point of view is it most often seen. Count the number of times that character is in that place. Write a list, and for each return to that place find one way in which that character's perception of it changes.

Conclusion: Bringing to life the world of your novel is more than just describing it using the five senses. A place lives most vividly through the eyes of characters. Delineate those evolving perceptions, and the world of your novel will feel rich, dynamic, and alive!

And now for a cute joke:

An old man lived in Idaho. He wanted to spade his potato garden, but it
was very hard work. His only son Bubba, who used to help him, was in
prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his

Dear Bubba,
I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won't be able to plant
my potato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If you were here, all my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me.
Love Dad........

A few days later he received a letter from his son.......
Dear Dad,
For heaven's sake, dad, don't dig up that garden, that's where I buried
Love Bubba

At 4 A.M. the next morning, F.B.I. agents and local police showed up and
dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to
the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son.....

Dear Dad,
Go ahead and plant the potatoes now.
That's the best I could do under
the circumstances.

And....a woman's thought for the day!

"Don't think of it as getting hot flashes. Think of it as your inner child playing with matches."


  1. WannabeMe said...
    "Don't think of it as getting hot flashes. Think of it as your inner child playing with matches."

    I should tell my husband he shouldn't mess with fire the next time he complains the carpets aren't vacuumed.
    David Meigs said...
    I have scenes where the father takes his son to a place he discovered years earlier. The scene was written from the Son’s POV (also the protag). I never even considered writing a scene from the Father’s POV. Excellent! Thank you.
    Soul Reflections said...
    Fun stuff Bonnie! Wonder where you ever get these jokes?....
    Bernita said...
    "perception of place..."
    Very acute.
    Home looks different when one's been away.
    Tyora Moody said...
    Thanks for the tips! I will add this book to my Amazon wishlist. Your jokes are hilarious!
    Sandra Ruttan said...
    Your inner child playing with matches - LOL!
    M. C. Pearson said...
    "...some of the head has dissipated..." ROTHFLOL!

    Just had to point that out to you in front of everyone. Heh.

    Great tips...HILARIOUS joke.
    M. C. Pearson said...
    Rolling on the hot floor laughing out loud. Yeah. That's what my typo meant!

    Here I am making fun of you and I do one in the same paragraph.

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