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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flip Flops in the Snow?

That's unusual! (Well, not really these days, but cut me some slack. I'm trying to make a point here.) Take an ordinary pair of shoes and put them in an unusual setting, and you have an interesting picture. Take an everyday story and put it in an unusual setting, and you have an exciting tale. One way we can set our works apart from the rest is with setting. Take Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, for example. She took the age-old tale of King Arthur, something we've heard a zillion times, and turned it into something else entirely by putting it in a mythical setting. Like it or not, most stories have already been told in one way or another (Romeo and Juliet, for example). Our job is to come up with a new way to tell the same old story. Setting can be a great resource. How have you used setting to make your work stand out from the rest? Or what books have you read that effectively used setting to distinguish themselves from the masses? Now, I have to thank Fiction Groupie, Strange Fiction, J.B. Chicoine, and Weronika for this award. Thanks girls! I'm breaking the rules here, but if you leave a comment to this post, the award is yours. Most of you leave regular comments, and I can not even begin to just pick five to pass it on to. You are all deserving. I love each and every one of your comments and hope they never stop coming!


Stephanie Faris said...

I think in some of my work, setting becomes a character all its own. The right setting can make all the difference.

B.J. Anderson said...

Great post on setting, which can really make or break a book in my opinion. It can make a book really stand out or fade into the background. :)

Karen said...

I think a perfect example of the use of setting was the Harry Potter series. Obviously there were certain places in the world of Harry Potter that don't really exist. But what struck me throughout the story was the way JK Rowling would incorporate familiar locations, like Kings Cross Station, where the magic was hidden just behind a wall, or through an unnoticed door.

TereLiz said...

I'm re-reading I Capture the Castle (again), and it is really the setting that makes that book as much as the characters. Who doesn't want to read about a family living in a damp old castle in genteel poverty?

Setting seems to come naturally to me as a writer. I just wish I was better with character development. *sigh*

Great post!

Dominique said...

You're right. Setting can be a key aspect of a story. I'm currently conflicted about the setting of my book. It all takes place in a made-up city in a fictional country; however, setting is time as much as place, and I am tempted to make it 1813 and place the country near Italy.

Strange Fiction said...

I'm creating fantasy settings. There's a certain freedom that comes with making up your own world. Maybe I'm lazy.. but it does cut down on time spent researching :)

Corey Schwartz said...

Interesting. Saw Inglourious Basterds last night. Setting plays a huge role.

Patti said...

Setting definitely helps make a story different. I took mine from my Icelandic ancestors and based a lot of the story on where they came from.

DebraLSchubert said...

Whenever I think of setting, I think of the movie "Body Heat." It had the most incredible sense of place and eeriness throughout. Oh, to capture that in a book!

Amy Tate said...

Great post, and how true! Although, I'm really not ready for snow...yet.

Janna Qualman said...

Congrats on the award!

I like how some authors stick to certain locations, the way Nicholas Sparks writes about North Carolina (and others park on the East coast). So far, my novels have a lake setting in common.

Lazy Writer said...

That is an interesting way of looking at it: setting is a character in itself.

Setting definitely can make or break a boook.

Harry Potter is a great example of excellent use of setting.

That's great that setting comes naturally for you. I have to say I'm a little jealous.

Time period is important, too. Good point.

I don't think that's lazy. Creating a fantasy setting would be difficult, I would think.

I haven't seen that. I'll have to check it out.

Iceland, how interesting!

Oh, yes, to capture that in a book!

I'm not ready for snow either!

Mine have a lake setting, too. Interesting...

Solvang Sherrie said...

I like when the setting seems ordinary everyday and yet the writer manages to infuse something wondrous into it, to make you see it in a different way. When you see sandals in the snow suddenly you're hearing the crunch of snow under your feet, feeling the melted flakes between your toes. It might not be bad if you're just running between the car and the house =)

Weronika said...

Oh, see, now you've made me feel guilty for actually picking and choosing (objectivity--pooh!). Good idea. I hate awards.

As for the post, you're so very right, Susan! :)

Jennifer Major said...

Susan - you really have a knack for looking at everyday events and finding the analogy to writing. Your blog always makes me think! Thank you!

And, setting is so important. It's important to real life characters, too. How different would our lives be if we grew up or lived somewhere else?

Danyelle said...

Congratulations on the award!

Two writers that I've found amazing are Diana Wynne Jones and Patricia McKillip. They take convention and turn it on its head. Terry Pratchett as well. It's a treat reading stories like that. It's like discovering words for the very first time. Over and over. :D

Lily said...

Your post reminds me of West Side Story, which is Romeo and Juliet in another setting. It's true. Good point.

As for the award... COngrats! But I'm not grabbing... I'm going to go write!

jbchicoine said...

The setting in my novel is not particularly unusual—it’s set in Down East Maine, at a marina/bed & breakfast—but the setting is intrinsic to the plot.

WhisperingWriter said...

Congrats on your award!!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Congrats on the award! I love the panda *smiling*

Hmm setting -mine is set in a WVA hollow(holler) and also in South Louisiana - two places that couldn't be more different from each other ... the people, the climate, the flat/mountain of it all

I'm reading about a little quirky southern town called Mossy Creek now southern settings.

Although I want to read out of exotic setting

storyqueen said...

I think Neil Gaiman did a cool job creating a setting in The Graveyard Book. Kind of weird to think of a graveyard as a cozy, comforting place....but it worked for me!


Heather Sunseri said...

Oh, I totally agree that setting can be another character that deserves as much development as a main character. I want my readers to feel like they've been there or at the very least want to go.

Kelly H-Y said...

That picture made me shiver!!! :-)

Lazy Writer said...

Great point! Everyday settings become more when an author can make them seem extraordinary!

Don't hate awards. Just pass them on how you feel most comfortable!

Thank you for the compliment.

I haven't read them. I'll have to check them out.

Yes, I was thinking of West Side Story when I wrote this post.

The setting doesn't have to be unusual, just interesting!

Whispering Writer,
Thank you!

I love southern settings, too. What is it about that draws us in?

I'll have to check that out as well.

That is exactly what we want the reader to feel.

Sorry, it did me too!

Dawn VanderMeer said...

Congrats on the award!

I agree with Karen--the Harry Potter series is amazing for so many reasons, including setting. What a world J.K. Rowling created! How about THE GRAPES OF WRATH? Or DAVID COPPERFIELD?

Beth said...

Setting is SO important, even settings that might seem mundane, like the inside of an apartment. It gives you a glimpse of what the character is like. Great post!!

#167 Dad said...

Is the Lazy Writer tag ironic? I'm a much lazier writer than you and I know writers who are even lazier than me...

Rae said...

congratulations on your award.

Leah Rubin said...

Congratulations on the award! Nice going-- and I think you should maybe stop calling yourself "Lazy Writer", because you seem to be anything but! And your points on setting were spot on. Keep 'em coming.

GirlMeetsGun said...

I think setting is everything in a story! Sometimes if I'm in the right place at the right time, just my surroundings will create a story in my head to write. I love it when that happens. It seems to set the mood and action right along with it!!

Jordan23Shoes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tabitha Bird said...

Congrats on the awards! I am all for flip flops in the snow... and interesting story settings. I am still thinking on this one for my current WIP.

Lazy Writer said...

Ah, The Grapes of Wrath. Great example!

You are right. Setting does give a glimpse into the characters.

#167 Dad,
I did a post about that earlier. I'm not lazy when it comes to writing. I'm lazy with other stuff because I'm too busy writing.

Thank you!

Thanks for stopping by. I explained about the lazy thing above.

Don't you love it when that happens?

Thanks for the spam! :)

I'm all for flip flops, but not so much for the snow!

Barrie said...

Two posts in a row with shoes in them!

Lori said...

It is so true that the stories have already been written a number of times and now we are just reinventing them.And the original setting is a great idea too.
I love the image for this post.

KM said...

Setting is one of my favorite parts of a story. Is that weird? I'm in total agreement with the idea that setting can make or break a novel.

Exhibit A: TWILIGHT. None of this story was new. Good girl falls for bad boy, star-crossed lovers are separated by forces greater than themselves but manage to get back together, etc. But because she wrote it in Washington (where not that many books seem to take place) and with vampires, it was new and exciting.

Exhibit B (and more classical): THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE. I love how Thomas Hardy always uses his settings as a sort of character in themselves. The heath on which the characters in this novel live influences them enough to say it almost dictates their lives.

Great post! :]

Carrie Harris said...

I wear flip flops in the snow. Having said that, your advice is spot on. I can think of a few instances in which changing the setting of a scene made all the difference for me!

Kristen Torres-Toro @ Write in the Way said...

Ha! This makes me laugh because I wear flip flops year round, even in the snow! I have pictures to prove it!

I love the setting of my current manuscript so much. It's actually become almost a fourth major character, which is really cool. Setting really can make or break a story; it's that important!