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Setting. The Power of Setting When we read we should be able to engage all of our senses, to merge fully with the protagonist. Then our imagination kicks.

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Presentation on theme: "Setting. The Power of Setting When we read we should be able to engage all of our senses, to merge fully with the protagonist. Then our imagination kicks."— Presentation transcript:

1 Setting

2 The Power of Setting When we read we should be able to engage all of our senses, to merge fully with the protagonist. Then our imagination kicks in and we are tramping through that jungle, feeling the steamy moist heat through our skin, hearing the insects chirping and buzzing, smelling the rich earth and the exotic perfumes of the plants. We often use our sense of sight to the exclusion of our other senses, but the other senses trigger the strongest memories and images. Imagine for a moment the smell of your mothers kitchen as she prepares a special holiday dinner. Doesnt that bring back memories and emotions? Of course you dont need to detail every single scene, but it is important to pay special attention to your major settings and this will make the rest of your writing more sensual as well. A word can trigger a memory of a smell or a taste that effectively pulls the reader right into the story. Dont overlook these evocative tools which can totally involve the reader in the story; enabling him to vicariously cross the red-hot sand dunes of Namibia or to risk the breathtaking precipices of the Alps or walk in the footsteps of the hero through the mean streets of the city to preserve the world from evil.

3 Obligatory vs Informative Most modern audiences want their stories to get to the action. Dont let them convince you to abandon setting altogether, but be sure to use it wisely, or youll risk losing your audience. Setting is an opportunity, not a duty. Just as some plays can get away with almost no stage design or props, some stories (and some scenes) can get away with little setting. But consider how much information you glean from settings in your everyday life! Imagine youre going to a party at a house youve never visited before, given by people you dont know well. You arent sure what to expect, and youre a bit nervous. As you walk up toward the house, you might look at the front lawn (Is there a fancy birdbath, or a plastic kiddie pool?), then at the house itself. Is it large, or small? How many lights are on? Do you hear music, and – if so – what kind, and how loud? By the time you ring the doorbell, you already have a much better idea of what to expect, just from a fairly unconscious assessment of the setting.

4 Language and Word Choice Watch out – here as everywhere in your writing – for runaway adjectives and adverbs! Too many of them will weaken your prose. use strong, specific nouns and verbs instead, whenever possible. Beware also of clichés, because they put your audiences senses to sleep. No one notices a "golden stretch of beach" or a "rosy apple" anymore. The images have been overused to the point of becoming invisible to readers, and you should avoid them like the plague. (Hint: That was a cliche!) Atmosphere describes the overall "feeling" to a place – romantic, threatening, welcoming, etc. – and it depends largely on your word choice a room with "oppressive low ceilings and blood-red curtains" feels much different to a reader than a room with "cozy low ceilings and cheerful red curtains." (Note: The atmosphere would still differ if the ceiling "loomed above their heads" or "cradled them like a womb," and youd have used strong nouns and verbs to achieve the effect, rather than adjectives.)

5 Elements of Setting 1.Location – where does the story take place? General to Specific In a locker? Or in a café San Francisco, Paris Earth, Outer Space?

6 2Time – When does the story take place Historical- modern, future, middle ages, 17 th century, imagined past or future Seasonal – winter, spring…lost in the mountains is not as frightening in the summer as the winter Daily time – morning or evening -keep track so the story flows at the proper pace


8 Use the Five Senses Sight Sound Touch Smell Taste Try closing your eyes and telling me everything about your setting. You dont need all five of your audiences senses in every story, but if youre only describing what things look like, then your setting – and hence your story – will not feel as realistic as it could.

9 Almost all theatre delights us with both sights and sounds (not only the actors voices, but also sound effects and background noise, such as doorbells, gunshots, horses footsteps, automobiles, music, and lawn mowers), but some also excite our other senses. Stage sets for A Raisin in the Sun frequently include a working stove, so that the characters can cook breakfast onstage, the odors wafting out to the audience to make the scene even more immediate. At a play called Metamorphoses, by Mary Zimmerman, for which the stage was a giant, shallow, rectangular pool. A towel was placed on every front-row seat, because the actors frequently drenched members of the audience during the plays action. They definitely engaged their audiences senses! Do this in words.

10 Setting and Plot give actors/characters a reason to move around on the stage. They might put the telephone, which the character uses early in a scene, on one side of the stage, and the couch, which the character sits upon later in the scene, on the other side. Movement makes things more interesting, and smart stage designers (and smart writers) take advantage of this fact. Dont put everything in one handy place; give your characters a reason to move around. Adventure stories often use this technique, by placing crucial items in a difficult to access place: a locked drawer, a far-away country, high in a tree, etc.

11 Setting and Character Setting communicates information about the characters who inhabit it. If a living room is furnished with priceless antiques, your audience will draw certain conclusions about the people who live there. If the backseat of an ancient Volkswagen bug is piled to the ceiling with old newspapers, theyll draw different conclusions. When entering someones house for the first time in real life, we usually have a look around, notice the artwork on the walls, the books on the shelves, the music playing on the stereo, the photos on the mantle, the tidiness of the kitchen, and the shower curtain in the bathroom. When attempting to express character through setting, beware of stereotypes. Not all college students live in ramshackle apartments with smelly old furniture and pizza boxes on the living room floor. Not all college professors have bookshelves lining their walls and collections of classical music CDs. Think about what makes your character unique and interesting, and how those things might be expressed in the characters house, car, office, yard, etc.


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