Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 12, 2011

Setting the Scene

Jordan E. Rosenfeld wrote an article yesterday for Writer’s Digest that covers 10 key techniques for launching scenes in three main ways: with action, narrative summary or setting.

When she mentions launching, she is referring to the beginning of a scene in your book.  I thought I would make sure you read numbers, eight, nine and ten, which focus on “Settings”(see bottom for link to 1-7).  Often we over look the setting in order to jump into the action, but if done right, adding details about the setting can draw in the reader into the scene and provide a good hook. 

SETTING LAUNCHES
Sometimes setting details—like a jungle on fire, or moonlight sparkling on a lake—are so important to plot or character development that it’s appropriate to include visual setting at the launch of a scene. This is often the case in books set in unusual, exotic or challenging locations such as snowy Himalayan mountains, lush islands or brutal desert climates. If the setting is going to bear dramatically on the characters and the plot, then there is every reason to let it lead into the scene that will follow.

John Fowles’ novel The Magus is set mostly on a Greek island that leaves an indelible imprint on the main character, Nicholas. He becomes involved with an eccentric man whose isolated villa in the Greek countryside becomes the stage upon which the major drama of the novel unfolds. Therefore, it makes sense for him to launch a scene in this manner:

It was a Sunday in late May, blue as a bird’s wing. I climbed up the goat-paths to the island’s ridge-back, from where the green froth of the pine-tops rolled two miles down to the coast. The sea stretched like a silk carpet across to the shadowy wall of mountains on the mainland to the west. … It was an azure world, stupendously pure, and as always when I stood on the central ridge of the island and saw it before me, I forgot most of my troubles.

The reader needs to be able to see in detail the empty Greek countryside in which Nicholas becomes so isolated. It sets the scene for something beautiful and strange to happen, and Fowles does not disappoint.
These final three methods can create an effective scenic launch:

8. ENGAGE WITH SPECIFIC VISUAL DETAILS. If your character is deserted on an island, the reader needs to know the lay of the land. Any fruit trees in sight? What color sand? Are there rocks, shelter or wild, roaming beasts?

9. USE SCENERY TO SET THE TONE OF THE SCENE. Say your scene opens in a jungle where your character is going to face danger; you can describe the scenery in language that conveys darkness, fear and mystery.

10. REFLECT A CHARACTER’S FEELINGS THROUGH SETTING. Say you have a sad character walking through a residential neighborhood. The descriptions of the homes can reflect that sadness—houses can be in disrepair, with rotting wood and untended yards. You can use weather in the same way. A bright, powerfully sunny day can reflect a mood of great cheer in a character.

Scene launches happen so quickly and are so soon forgotten that it’s easy to rush through them, figuring it doesn’t really matter how you get it started. Don’t fall prey to that thinking. Take your time with each scene launch. Craft it as carefully and strategically as you would any other aspect of your scene. Remember that a scene launch is an invitation to the reader, beckoning him to come further along with you. Make your invitation as alluring as possible.

Here is the link to read the first seven tips about action and narrative launches.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/10-ways-to-launch-strong-scenes?et_mid=521849&rid=232750627

Jordan E. Rosenfeld is a contributing editor to Writer’s Digest magazine, and a freelance writer and author.

Click the link below to take a look inside Jordan’s book MAKE A SCENE.

http://www.amazon.com/Make-Scene-Crafting-Powerful-Story/dp/1582974799/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318378342&sr=8-1#_

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Thanks, Kathy! I recently had to stop getting Writer’s Digest 😦 so missed this. It’s great stuff, as always 🙂
    Donna

    Like


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