I was first interested in the idea of using time in writing fiction. Depending on the era, year, time of day, or season, the reader may get a different idea about what is happening in the story. If the same story were to be told in different eras, the context of the story may be drastically different. This is kind of dark, but for example, a story that speaks about the experience of whipping that takes place during the time of legal slavery in the United States would be much different from someone being whipped in 2020. Either way, it’s horrible for the person receiving the torture. However, in the United States in 2020, this may happen in a more private setting because the whipper would face lawful repercussions and social shunning for committing such an act. Back in the 40s and 50s, it was lawfully ok for people to have slaves and whip those slaves. Also, a story that takes place at midnight in the city is much different than one that happens in the middle of the afternoon. Moods may often come with those time periods.
The chapter begins with the general place, and I think it’s good that they describe it as being in the most broad and focused sense, as well as weather. Much like the author said, weather can play a huge role on the activities the characters might come across. Specifically in my home town in Colorado it wouldn’t be uncommon to be sledding one day and wearing tank tops and shorts the next.
The specific place is also correlated with time, again in a broad and narrow sense. I find that I typically don’t mark out set time for most things- that is on a more narrow sense. I usually have a specific era in mind (modern, medieval, frontier, etc.), but I rarely decide what month or even season it might be. I suppose that might be due to the fact that I grew up in a place with unpredictable weather that I figured nothing was really consistent anywhere, and so picking a specific season made no real difference. I know better now, even more so after reading this chapter. I believe it’s these things that let my writing lack a deeper connection. As compered to by other authors who use setting to their advantage, I never gave my stories that full chance and possibly gain a deeper meaning or another thing to support the ideas I was trying to convey.
Setting is such a major point of all stories, as the world around your characters impacts them, and your overall story. Setting should not be ignored. Place is one of the most important parts of your setting as well. Place is where your characters are. You should think about the country, town, neighborhood, and even the weather of where your character(s) are. Having all of these details will help enhance your story. They create an element that draws your reader in and will make them feel like they’re part of the story as well. When you’re writing your setting, the book describes one really important question we should consider; Does your place setting affect your action? The answer is that it should. The setting can change what happens and how it happens. Your setting will also dictate how your character acts. Parts of the setting/ place should be shown in them. Certain actions won’t exist in different places, and certain character traits may only come up from living in a certain area. That’s how your setting will move along your action and character.
When writing your setting, action should be mixed into the descriptions of the story. It has to be evenly distributed among the story and description because if it’s not, it can get boring and long. You want to keep the reader reading and intrigued. By spreading out your description and lacing in action, it creates a great story. Along with this, you should pace your story accordingly to your scenes. If you have a really important/ interesting part, it should have more detailing and description, as you want your readers to see it and understand it. But if it’s something lack luster, move through it quickly so you don’t bore your reader.
One of the hardest parts of creating and writing a story is actually doing just that; that is, coming up with characters who do things and want things and talk to each other. But that is only one part of the (well, maybe a few parts) of the entire whole. As author of chapter seven, Caron Gussoff contends, setting is extremely important as well. She says: “when readers read a piece of fiction, they expect it to feel real, even if it’s a life they don’t and will never know. They want to enter into it, to live there which the characters” (151). This is important because setting gives context, it helps to illuminate who the characters are, and why they are the way they are. While it may seem obvious, sometimes it is easy to overlook when writing.
Gussoff also talks about how, in addition to grounding the reader in a physical place and time, setting can actually enhance the emotional landscape of a piece; it sets the tone, the mood, whatever you want to call it. Thus, it can evoke a certain feeling that can help to guide the action and rest of the story. This also connects with the point of view, as the setting as seen through the eyes of a particular character can alter how we, the reader, view/experience the setting. Furthermore, Gussoff notes that as the writer you have to create a setting through words. This means that in order to really create the physical world that both grounds the reader and establishes a mood, the writer must be able to convey the mood and setting quickly, almost subtly. It should be done in a way that continues to keep the story moving but at the same time is woven artfully into the description and or dialogue.
Journal 11 – Chapter 7
I really like how this chapter started off, especially reading the one about dialogue and characters before it. This chapter begins with the author discussing how many times characters are so important in the famous short stories we remember, that often people forget the importance of developing a detailed setting for the story. Just as it is in real life, the setting of a story is why your characters are who they are, so it is very important to the integrity of the story to understand the setting and to more fully understand the characters. Another important piece in this chapter for me was the “setting the mood” section. I liked the example of Poe, and how he used setting in order to enhance and more fully develop the mood and how the readers were feeling around the story. Another piece of this chapter that stuck with me when reading was the setting the details section on page 161. I appreciated this because I believe it is truly important to know a lot about your characters an settings in order to make them genuine to who you make them throughout the entire story. Something I often struggle with is keeping my characters consistent throughout the stories. Much like the characters, if you know everything about the setting and where the characters are coming from, it will seem more genuine to the readers once they get more clues about the setting because of the consistency. This tactic is much easier than just making things up as I go about the characters, or setting in this example, because it allows me to stay on track to the mood I’m trying to portray in the story.
I really enjoy the way the author started off this chapter with unique descriptions of all the places that they have lived. To me, this really shows how just simple and short descriptions when paired with a few defining words can really bring the place in question to life in your mind. Specifically in relation to this week, I really focused in on and analyzed the very last section in the chapter titled “Flashbacks.” Though this section was rather short, it did give some important insight into not necessarily how to write the actual flashback, as I suppose everyone would and will do this differently, but more so why writers include flashbacks and why they can be so beneficial to the narrative as a whole. The author describes that sometimes just having a character recall a brief moment from the past does not actually do much for the story, but when they fixate on that moment for so long that it seemingly takes them back in time for a second, that shows the readers the true power and significance of that point in time, no matter how short it is.
Journal #11: I found the comment in the beginning of this chapter very interesting. That Jay Gatsby was Jay Gatsby because he was living in the jazz age and would be quintessentially not Jay Gatsby without it. Maybe this is why I really don’t like historical dramas. I often find that I want to relate to people that live today, someone I could meet right now. Historical novels often bore me as I have no intent to exist in that era and don’t really want to know people from that era. It is interesting to think about how we can be such different people depending on when and where we are born. As for pacing, I am a big fan of page breaks and jump cuts. I don’t really have much of a method for deciding when a scene needs to end, I just write what feels right. As for flashbacks, I try not to write them at all unless it is dedicated to a whole chapter or it is part of a story another character is telling. That being said, I do like flashbacks. I very rarely, if ever, find myself writing them though.
Place is perhaps the most elusive decision I make when writing a story. Even though setting tends to play an integral role in the stories I read and in the general inspiration for the stories I read, I tend to find place rather concrete and therefore overwhelming as deciding on place, time and other aspects of life (which are generally very difficult for me to grasp anyways). What I find most overwhelming was articulated at the beginning of the chapter “When readers read a piece of fiction, they expect it to feel real, even if it’s a life they don’t and will never know.” (p. 151). I did think the point made that where characters exist defines who they are is many ways (specifically the point about Holden Caulfield helped with this) indicated that I should likely try to work on specifying my location earlier in the process of writing. However, something I tend to run into when I identify these things early on is the potential boredom of both myself and the reader. (Especially my boredom). I think one of the ways I could avoid this is by more closely intertwining my characters with the setting their in. Or, perhaps, enriching the characters I come up with by furthering my understanding of setting/place could impact them and their personality in a meaningful way. Ultimately, this chapter indicates an aspect of writing that I believe I need to attribute a large amount of work towards in order to deepen my writing.
I really enjoyed this chapter as i think my favorite part of writing is world building as it comes easier to me then dialogue and characters. I think this comes from my years of playing dungeons and dragons and making multiple worlds for people to play in. I really enjoyed the way this chapter provided helpful tips and ways to write a more contained setting that doesn’t need all the backstory and extend lore that im used to writing. I hope to be able to use some of these new skills with some of the short storys well be writing in this class.
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