Tag Archives: novel writing

Setting: The Difference Between Oz and Kansas

And once again, the Teens Can Write Too! blog chain rolls around. Since I left TCWT, this is the last time I’ll get the last spot on the chain, if not the last time I’ll ever participate. Hopefully this will live up to any expectations that happen to exist. This month’s prompt was:

“How much does setting affect your novels and stories? What are some of your favorite ways to portray setting?”

As anyone who’s been in a middle or high school English class knows, setting is one of the fundamental structures of literature. But, as we all also know, English classes are famous for destroying everything that is enjoyable about reading and writing. For every writer, setting should be more than something old Mrs. Whatsherface made you write three paragraphs on back in sixth grade. What’s a story without a setting? It’s a narrative floating in air, a conflict with no battleground, featuring characters with no hometown or destination.

Certainly setting has great effect on my novels and stories. Setting helps define my characters–their origins, current locations, where they travel, and where they ultimately want to be. Location always manipulates conflict in some way. One of my novels is based around land feuds between humans and dwarves. Setting doesn’t always have to directly influence the plot, but undoubtedly, it’ll be present in some way, even if it’s just a few hints of local culture sprinkled throughout or a passing mention of the scenery as the protagonist and his buddies drive through town.

I usually find telling the reader about the setting in a story tedious, and after all, as writers we’re supposed to “show, not tell.” Local culture fascinates me, and I think it’s the perfect way to give readers a strong sense of setting, and it lends an almost visceral atmosphere of place to any work of fiction. Characters’ ways of speaking, what people eat and do for fun, architecture, and landscape are all important points to hit on when portraying an area. It’s better to mention details about setting bit by bit rather than dropping several descriptive paragraphs on the reader like a ton of bricks. I always try to blend setting, characters, and action into one rich narrative stew. If all goes as hoped for, these separate elements combine into broad brushstrokes of pure fiction.

It’s difficult to look at different elements of literature as individual pieces, seeing as how they constantly react with each other, push and pull and manipulate among themselves. I’m writing this in my Latin notebook in the car, which is traveling north on the highway at dusk. My setting is affecting my action–both of which are changing me as a character at this moment. I’m pressed to finish this, as I’m losing light and will need to type it into WordPress tomorrow morning, yet I’m making slow progress, as I’m distracted by the changing scenery outside and my music. I’m hoping that my future self will leave this perhaps a little strange example in the post–greetings from the past!

Setting–physical, temporal, social–is one of the most important parts of everything I write. It can certainly be troublesome to strike that perfect balance between sparse and heavy-handed when it comes to description of place. If everything goes well, setting works with all the other facets of a story to envelope the reader completely.

Want to follow our blog chain? Here are the participating parties, day by day:

September 5–http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com–Musings From Neville’s Navel

September 6–http://oliviasopinions.wordpress.com–Olivia’s Opinions

September 7–http://miriamjoywrites.wordpress.com–Miriam Joy Writes

September 8–http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com–Kirsten Writes!

September 9–http://writingbeyondthemoon.blogspot.com–Beyond the Moon

September 10–http://crazyredpen.blogspot.com–Crazy Red Pen

September 11–http://ebonquill.wordpress.com–The Ebony Quill

September 12–http://realityisimaginary.blogspot.com–Reality Is Imaginary

September 13–http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com–This Page Intentionally Left Blank

September 14–http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com–The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

September 15–https://allegradavis.wordpress.com–All I Need Is A Keyboard

September 16–http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com–Teens Can Write, Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)


A Letter To My Novel

Dearest Novel,

You owe me so much.

You do realize that you would not exist in theory or in reality if it weren’t for me? You do realize that only my many hours of labor have resulted in your existence? You do realize that I am currently editing you, ever improving your content, all for your own benefit?

I hope so.

It’s not as if you’ve given me an awful lot in return. I’ve put up with your insolent, audacious antics for two years now. Two years. I dried out at least seven good pens and used up four notebooks in your creation. I labored at my laptop to make you better. You deceived me. I thought you were so much better than before–I thought you were worthy of seeing the light. You’re a sneaky little thing, Novel. It’s my fault, too. I let my unconditional love for you cloud my judgement. I showed you off proudly in your imperfect form, thinking you a creation worthy of recognition. I learned my lesson.

I got you back from the hands of the outsiders, the infamous creatures called Beta Readers. Their pen marks on your skin hurt me, too. I was ashamed. I was angry. I thought them ignorant, over-critical, only out to get to me through you. You’re better than they say, I thought, reassuring myself. I started reading you to show myself that I was right.

I was wrong. The outsiders were right.

The marks on your visage increased–doubled, tripled–as I took my own pen to you. I started out logical, reserved. Then I got vengeful. I slashed out passages, circled phrases with wild abandoned, and scribbled over sentences I disliked as though blacking them out would remove them from the past as well as the present. I nearly shed a tear. I wanted to punch something. There you were, my life’s work, in tatters at my feet.

I’m sorry. I tried my best.

I’m still working on you. I haven’t given up, I promise. It’s hard for both of us, but it can only make us better. And even if you’re never published for all the world to see, even if you just remain a manuscript on my computer, you taught me a lot. So I guess I do owe you after all.




Fads, Evil Thistles, and Surprisingly Bad Grammar

This post is for the November 2011 Teens Can Write Too! blog chain. This month’s prompt was:

“What are the wackiest, funniest, most disturbing search terms anyone has ever used to find your blog?”

I need to stop looking at the search terms used to find my blog; I’m only creeping myself out. Most of the search terms used to find my blog are perfectly mundane (titles of books and the like), but there are a few real gems. They’re not particularly disturbing, but they make me wonder about the types of people who accidently landed on this blog. Here are a few that made me laugh, twitch, and/or look twice.

ancient people with rocks–Yes, I do believe that ancient people had rocks. They came pre-made.

tamora queen of the goths–Are we talking about the ancient Goths who sacked Rome, or the modern type who hang around malls wearing all black, white, and red?

the w on the cover of witches and wizards–I think you mean “Witch & Wizard.” As for the “W,” it’s on fire, it’s orange, and it has human faces protruding from it.

evil thistle plant–Now I have an image stuck in my head of thistles coming to life and beating us all to death with their purple poofy flowers.

why chocolate is so amazing–I personally can’t see why anyone needs to ask this. Chocolate just is.

good replies to “here’s to us” email–The best I can decipher this one is that there is a chain or spam email going around with the subject line saying “here’s to us.” How dare they steal my blog title?!

fads right now–Look around you: Uggs, Justin Bieber, and kitten videos. These are dark times, my friends.

edger allen poe–I was starting to worry this person was going to spell his last name incorrectly, as well.

official illusions–Is there a National Registry of Illusions? I’d like to know.

2 girls did photos of fake fairies–So they did. It’s a fascinating tale.

horus acrostic poem–Sorry, but I’m not the best source of information on ancient Egyptian literature. Why don’t you consult your local library?

funny witch quotes–Quotes about witches, by witches, or directed at witches? And they have to be funny? You’re much too demanding, anonymous search person.

i am number four figurative language–I’m happy to know that some people still pay attention to literary devices.

stonehenge chain link fence–I’m just not quite sure about this one.

messy homework–Well, it happens sometimes, especially if you save it for the bus ride to school.

We were also asked to write a little bit about our NaNoWriMo projects or current novels for the blog chain.I’m not a NaNoWriMo participant, but I have vowed to try and finish my current WIP by the end of November. The first draft was finished a long time ago, but it’s simply abominable, so I’m doing a total rewrite, which is currently at about 76,000 words. It’s a YA fantasy of the medieval-epic style, but I’d like to say it’s less of an idealized “high” fantasy as a harsher, underworld fantasy. There aren’t any supervillains, but there aren’t any superheroes, either.

Want to follow our blog chain? Here are the participating parties in order.

November 5th —http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com/ – Kirsten Writes!

November 6th — http://delorfinde.wordpress.com – A Farewell To Sanity

November 7th — http://eatsleepwriterepeat.wordpress.com – Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat

November 8th — http://alohathemuse.wordpress.com – Embracing Insanity

November 9th — http://noveljourneys.wordpress.com/ – Novel Journeys

November 10th —- http://greatlakessocialist.wordpress.com/ – Red Herring Online

November 11th — http://taystapeinc.wordpress.com – Tay’s Tape

November 12th — http://herebefaries.wordpress.com/ – The Land of Man-Eating Pixies

November 13th – http://randominmind.wordpress.com – Random On My Mind!

November 14th – http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com/ – This Page Intentionally Left Blank

November 15th — http://herestous.wordpress.com – Here’s To Us

November 16th— http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com –  The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

November 17th — http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com – Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for the next month’s chain)