We’re wrapping up our Writing Prompt series on SETTING by looking at the connection between character and setting. Setting gives the reader a world to visualize. It’s grounding. It creates mood and tone. In Gone With the Wind, for example, Atlanta is almost a character. So it Tara. These locations provide much more than just the name of a city or property. They provide context for what’s happening in the story, and they provide an emotional connection between the character and place. It’s a true relationship. As such, settings can give insight into a character. Scarlett’s connection to Tara and her desire–nay, determination–to save it shows quite a lot about her stubbornness, here doggedness, her resilience, and her grit. Prompt:  Write a scene which shows an emotional connection between your character and a specific setting in their world.

Writer’s block is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot in the writing world. At writing conferences; at workshops; at organization meetings. I’ve been asked time and time again, “Do you get writer’s block?” or “What do you do when writer’s block happens?” I used to say something to the effect of, “Oh, I just wait it out,” because, basically, writer’s block means you can’t write anything. You’re stuck. You are out of ideas. So what else can you do but wait? I used to believe all of that. My muse deserted me! That’s it, my idea well has dried up! I’m just stuck, stuck, stuck! Until one day I realized that my muse hadn’t left me, at all. And I had plenty of ideas, I just had to tap into them. And sure, I might be stuck, but I could get unstuck. I realized, on a broader level, that the reason my words were ‘blocked’ was because: A)  …

Writer’s Block is a Myth, but Here are 6 Tips to Get You Through Read more »

Setting in a story can be given through description (see Writing Promp #3). Last time we talked about creating setting through description. Today, we’re still looking at setting as a way to convey a story’s time and place, but this time, we’re using dialogue.   Why? Because setting doesn’t have to only be conveyed through description. People talk. And they talk about the weather. Where they live. Where they’ll be visiting. They use description to paint pictures of these places, but they do it through dialogue.You can also use dialogue to effectively convey setting. JK Rowling is one of many authors who use dialogue to convey setting. In this brief example, Hagrid is taking Harry from the Hut on the Rock to Diagon Alley, and he’s describing Gringotts. “Why would you be mad to try and rob Gringotts?” Harry asked.  “Spells — enchantments,” said Hagrid, unfolding his newspaper as he spoke. “They say there’s dragons guardin’ the high security vaults. And …

Writing Prompt #4: Using Dialogue to Convey Setting Read more »

Why do we enjoy reading mysteries so much?  It’s an interesting question to consider and that’s just what I did recently.  I gave it a lot of thought and this is what I came up with. I think one reason people love reading mysteries is because they are a safe thrill, kind of like roller coasters when you’re a kid.  They’re a safe adventure, as well.  Just as in any other type of book, we get to visit exotic or interesting places.  You can see the dark side of people, but you know that justice will prevail.  Good will overcome evil. Readers respond to books because they can relate to one of the characters.   With a sleuth, or amateur detective, we respond because we can become part of the solution.  We’re on the winning team, capturing villains, killers, and righting wrongs. On a more basic level, we read mysteries for the same reasons we read romance or women’s fiction …

Why Do We like Mysteries? Read more »

Setting is a story’s time and place. You cannot have a story without setting. Setting grounds the entire narrative.  In books, setting can be very overtly or explicit given to the reader, or it can be alluded to through descriptions of clothing, architecture, weather, topography, and other environmental elements. When we think of TIME, a story can be set in the present, the past, or the future. In SciFi and fantasy stories, there are alternate realities. This idea goes a bit beyond time and place, so we can include alternate realities in our definition. So, SETTING conveys: Time (past, present, future, as well as Alternate Reality) Place, which can be a wide-lens view or a planet, a country, a city, and/or it can move into a close-angle view of a city or town, a home, or even the inside of a building or vehicle or single room Prompt: Today’s writing prompt is about creating the wide lens view of a …

Writing Prompt #3: A Place You’ve Lived-Urban; Rural; Mountains; Beach… Read more »

There are four major types of mysteries.  Within each category, there are sub-categories (like paranormal or historical). A mystery must have certain elements to be considered a mystery.  Essentially, a mystery will have a puzzle or secret, or layers of puzzles or secrets, a setting that fits the type of book, a sound motive, red herrings, and clues. Most traditionally accepted mysteries have a murder. This is the element that compels people to keep reading. While some mysteries may not have a murder (or murders) at the center, the majority do. If you don’t have a murder, you may be writing a suspense. Something to think about. There are four major types of mysteries within the broad genre.  Within each category, there are sub-categories. A mystery must have certain elements to be considered a mystery.  Essentially, a mystery will have a puzzle or secret, or layers of puzzles or secrets, a setting that fits the type of book, a sound motive, red herrings, and clues.   Cozy Traditional cozies have a likable …

Types of Mysteries Read more »

Opening Scene True Grit

Have you ever thought about the opening scenes of movies? If you pay attention, you will start to notice how they often begin with a sort of wide angle view of the world in which the story takes place. In Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope, we get text scrolling which gives backstory, but then we see a planet, then two, then the edge of a planet, up close and personal, and then, WOW!, we see a ship fly by. Then it’s firing. Right away we know that this story is set in outer space and there is a battle or war going on. We get a ‘wide angle’ view of the setting and situation before it cuts to C3PO and R2D2 in the corridor inside one of the ships. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLgsf8Pei6Q In True Grit, we get voice over giving backstory as the camera starts from a distance, then slowly moves in and gains focus on the porch of a …

Beginning a Story or Scene ‘En Media Res’, or using a Wide Angle Read more »

As a teacher, there are some topics I find so fun to teach. The Hero’s Journey is one of those topics.    Joseph Campbell originated the idea of The Hero’s Journey, or the Monomyth, in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.   It has since become THE template for screenplays, and so many writers use it to guide them as they write their books, as well.    I got a little joyful jolt a few weeks ago when I was listening to Will Smith’s new memoir, Will. He mentions going to see Stephen Spielberg when Will didn’t want to take the role of Jay in Men in Black. He talks about Spielberg giving him a copy of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and how The Hero’s Journey changed his life and his approach to developing the characters he played and the roles he chose (and still chooses). I was like, Will Smith knows about the monomyth! Cool!  …

An Overview of The Hero’s Journey Read more »