Those familiar with my writing know that vivid settings are important to my storytelling—whether exotic foreign locales (including invented planets), the glorious wilderness, the shimmering world under the waves, or the flavor of downtown streets. I confess I gravitate to the outdoors when possible, and find it boring when scenes and sometimes whole stories are devoted to characters talking in generic rooms. When I’m working with student writers, I “open up the toolbox” of techniques to try in the pursuit of fully textured fiction. I’ve found that setting and landscape are often forgotten in the development of character and conflict, but they can be powerful in establishing the emotional tone of a scene. Witness Shakespeare’s plays that famously use weather and landscape as symbolic mirrors of the human comedy or drama.
“This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.” (MacBeth, Act I Scene 6)
A perfect moment to lull us into relaxation before the horrific events to come.
“It was the owl that shriek’d, the fatal bellman,
Which gives the stern’st good-night.” (Macbeth. ACT II Scene 2) Continue reading