In terms of Setting. The place where the story lives, where the character walks through that world. But it’s not the place that’s important; it’s not a publicity swirl of words for the place – or is it?
Does the play of setting become more powerful than the story? It shouldn’t. Story has a setting and that is where it unfolds, but the location is where the character is – so how does the character see, feel, be in that setting? What does the setting matter? Is it relevant?
A scene card:
INT: front room TIME: evening; the colour of the sunset highlights the white lace curtains that swing in the breeze.
There are writer’s who need to put a scene note up to make sure they don’t forget that other people are going to need to know things about what is happening in this scene.
Is it daylight – and how does the reader know this? Write the scene from POV to SHOW the interaction between character and time.
Is it in a specific place that has meaning? How does it impact the emotional beat of the scene? Has there been a lead-up to this moment/scene? Is it clear to the reader?
Of course, there’s much more to a scene card, and we’re not talking about scene cards here, but Setting.
Where the story lives and moves and does stuff. So who does this stuff? The setting does, if the writer puts too many words into it through description or other non-character interaction.
The character is in this setting for a purpose – what is that purpose? The scene has a beat – how does the setting build to that beat? Does it build at all?
What is it about this particular setting that is important to the story at this moment? Why? Is it a juxtaposition? A flare of understanding given through a reaction to/against?
If the POV character is in the front room of a house, is it their house? Someone else’s? A formal room for the specific purpose of receiving ‘special’ guests? Is POV standing, sitting, perched on the edge of something while waiting to hear, see, or respond to a moment of tension?
Books tell us that setting is part of a scene, that a POV character must act (important word) within a setting that suits the purpose of the story.
True – but if the setting overpowers the words that are the movement of the story, can the writer cut it out? Yes, and they should. If the setting is too much, too many words that don’t do anything – they don’t need to be there! Just enough words to give the right emphasis to what the character is doing in the scene, and how the reaction is for/against the setting and why/purpose of setting for this scene. Some of this will tell a crafty writer that maybe that scene doesn’t belong in the story at all.
And if she’d done a mud-map, maybe she’d have known that before she put some many hours into putting it into the story.
Next time: the mud map!