A tool topic.
Compelling – that’s what we want, what a reader wants. To visit a compelling place while in the confines of a book . That doesn’t mean exotic, just that it is someplace we have never been, never likely to go to, would be afraid to visit (even in our dreams), or that doesn’t exist in this realm.
That’s lots of words to apply to a setting to impress a reader enough to push them beyond the banal and into the realm of your story.
Setting. The place where it happens. What happens if you get it wrong? Put a story of Pinocchio in the world setting of Star Wars? Not going to work, is it? That may be an extreme example, but it works as an example because it shows how it can be so wrong. Worse would be to make it so cliché that the reader won’t even go past the first breath of it.
What a waste all your work would be if no one walked past the gate, let alone opened it to come down the drive to the house (story) you built just for them. A waste.
Compelling – a place to visit that will intrigue, incite, excite, tickle (something). A new place, or a forbidden place, or a place where things could be different (or the same, but with rules to use to stop or do or change something). A new world – for the reader.
The word vicarious fits here – to live as if in the skin of the person undergoing the path of the story. As character acters (no gender specificity here, thank you) become the character, how about the character reader becoming the character? That’s what it’s all about.
Get the reader so involved in the setting, in the closeness of the character (through empathy and attachment) that the reader becomes the part presented, becomes the character reader.
There are words to use to make a setting sing, but having a lovely word doesn’t necessarily cause that thrill, that frisson, of connection. It must be, first and foremost, COMPELLING to the reader.
If it is only exotic – is it exotic to the writer or the reader? How can a writer know if a reader will consider this particular setting to be exotic? They may live with that setting, and consider they not only know more, but that the writer got things wrong about their world. That’s a bad move.
If it is new and imagined, is it somewhere that lights the flame of intrigue? Is it a place of dangers (sublime and terrifying) that will burn the skin on the first reading?
If it isn’t compelling, in terms of the genre, the subject, the character – don’t do it! Find another setting, one that is compelling, that puts that character reader right in the head of your story and living it as if it belonged in their world.
Compelling setting. Don’t forget it. Don’t put Skippy into Antarctica.
Copyright Karel Jaeger 2017.