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Brandi_R
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Topic 31: Setting

I recently attended a reading by and discussion with author Russell Banks in which he discussed creating a believable sense of place in fiction. His newest novel, The Reserve, is set partly in New York state’s Adirondack wilderness. He felt that he could not write about this place properly without first knowing it intimately.

Indeed, setting is not mere backdrop, so it holds an important place in the fiction writer’s world. It should be integral to a work of fiction. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, for example, needed the verve and excitement of the big city—hence New York City. And it needed the decadence and carelessness of the new-rich mentality of West Egg, where Gatsby lives after spending much of his life gathering the very wealth his lost love, Daisy, takes for granted.

What are the places you already know intimately? What story ideas come to mind when you think of that place? Have you had story ideas for places you don’t know well? How have you gone about gathering information on those kinds of settings?
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hprocks2121
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Re: Topic 31: Setting

i visit vermont every summer, and i always picture a very zen, very peaceful story. sometimes it reminds me of walk two moons. also, sometimes, i get 'story rushes' when i think 'wow, this would be a great story. some of those times are in vermont, the last day of 5th grade, and playing manhunt. they just seem like good times and places for stories.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. --Ferris Beuller
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APenForYourThoughts
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Re: Topic 31: Setting

Setting tends to be something I place great importance on in my writing; I write a lot of poetry that utilizes nature to make a point, so that tends to permeate my prose as well. I'm quite familiar with the sea, as I live only about fifteen miles away from the Atlantic Ocean, so that pops up a lot. (There is something particularly inspiring about the sea on an overcast, windy day...) I also saw A LOT of nature this summer, so I utilize a lot of that. The countryside of Virginia/West Virginia, for instance. I thought it was absolutely beautiful. So I like to take a lot of elements from that. I'm also fascinated by Ireland, even though I've never been there, and I've done a lot of Internet surfing to find out more about it... Pretty much all the writing I do is sparked by nature. And then I'll add in more details as they come to me in order to contribute to the overall mood/tone of the story.
"A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." --Kafka
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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 31: Setting



hprocks2121 wrote:
i visit vermont every summer, and i always picture a very zen, very peaceful story. sometimes it reminds me of walk two moons. also, sometimes, i get 'story rushes' when i think 'wow, this would be a great story. some of those times are in vermont, the last day of 5th grade, and playing manhunt. they just seem like good times and places for stories.




Interesting! It seems like it brings back good memories for you. Perhaps it would be a good place to set a story that takes place in a character’s childhood. You mention a peaceful story. What sorts of stories have conflict but also feel peaceful? An interesting challenge for the writer. I’m thinking of stories with more gentle arcs, ones that focus on realizations rather than intense battles of wills. Frank O’Connor’s “First Confession” comes to mind.
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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 31: Setting



APenForYourThoughts wrote:
Setting tends to be something I place great importance on in my writing; I write a lot of poetry that utilizes nature to make a point, so that tends to permeate my prose as well. I'm quite familiar with the sea, as I live only about fifteen miles away from the Atlantic Ocean, so that pops up a lot. (There is something particularly inspiring about the sea on an overcast, windy day...) I also saw A LOT of nature this summer, so I utilize a lot of that. The countryside of Virginia/West Virginia, for instance. I thought it was absolutely beautiful. So I like to take a lot of elements from that. I'm also fascinated by Ireland, even though I've never been there, and I've done a lot of Internet surfing to find out more about it... Pretty much all the writing I do is sparked by nature. And then I'll add in more details as they come to me in order to contribute to the overall mood/tone of the story.




I imagine the sea gives you a lot of material. There is so much to experience there, from the water to the wildlife, and it seems to change so vibrantly based on tide, weather, time of day, time of year, etc.

Your fascination with Ireland is interesting, even though you’ve not been there. Do you find your writings that bring in descriptions of Ireland are as powerful and convincing as those that describe the sea?

To everyone: is there a divide in the quality of your work based on those places you have experienced first hand and those you haven't, but have researched? Can you write convincingly of places that exist, but which you haven’t visited? Thoughts?
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Genryu
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Re: Topic 31: Setting

Zen is anything but peaceful btw.
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Braguine
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Re: Topic 31: Setting

I treat setting like a character, and since it is seen and through a character's eyes it will change as the character changes.

 

In some cases setting will be the antagonist. Especially in man vs. nature stories.

 

Too many new writers confuse setting with description that slows the story

Alexey Braguine, author of Kingmaker