Saturday, April 21, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge: S is for...


For my entries in the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I will be focusing on writing elements that I find important and that I want to incorporate into my work.

Today, the topic is SETTING.

When and where a story takes place can range from insignificant to vitally important.  It really depends on the story. 

If I’m creating a science fiction piece, I will probably spend more time on setting than I would with other stories.  For a suspense story for example, a setting like “modern day in some unnamed city” might be more than enough.

Fantasy writers can spend a tremendous amount of time developing an intricately woven alternate reality where a zoo of magical beasts exists alongside heroes and villains produced from heavily-branching multi-generational political dynasties.  Half of the story can just be getting the reader up to speed on the setting.

In general, I prefer not to do this.

Like with backstory, I typically try to supply just enough information and detail to anchor the story, and then let the characters and plot take it from there. 

But that doesn’t mean I don’t value setting or recognize that it is important.  Consider what “The Wizard of Oz” might have been if Dorothy had lived in the Bronx. “Over the Rainbow” might have become “Under the Subway” and the munchkins might have morphed into C.H.U.D.*-like beasts.

It’s just that, overall, I tend to lean towards the “Less is More” school of thought regarding what information to dump on my readers, and this applies to setting, too.

What about you?  Is setting a critical part of your stories?

Thanks for visiting -- see you the rest of this month for more alphabetical fun!

Don't forget to visit HERE to see all the bloggers taking part in this A-to-Z challenge, and try to drop in on as many of them as you can!

*(reference to schlock ‘80’s horror film): C.H.U.D.


Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Simpler the better - I agree with you. When an author zones out on a long description of a sunset or the English countryside, I yawn and skip it.
"Over the Subway" - LOL!

Gina said...

I love to use the places where my stories develop as if they were another character. I make them reflect the character and feelings that I want the reader to feel. To give great detail on the setting helps you establish the atmosphere.

As always, I enjoyed your post very much. =)
From Diary of a Writer in Progress

.jessica. said...

In general, I tend not to spend a lot of time describing setting - it's amazing what a few well-placed details can do. And really, the fun of reading is in filling in the blanks with your own imagination, so I try to keep that in mind when I'm writing.

I'm actually struggling with this in my current WIP, though, because my setting isn't here-and-now. In the scenes themselves the setting isn't crucial, but finding a way to get across the world-building stuff without info-dumping has been challenging. I'm trying to focus on details, trying to remember to trust my readers... and I'm also letting myself info-dump where I have to. I mean, it IS still a first draft! :)

Cindy Dwyer said...

What a great topic for the month!

Li said...

This brings to mind James Michener - I never completed one of his books, some of the passages just bored me to death, and didn't seem to lend much of anything to the story. I have a Liebster blog award for you if you'd like to accept it! Thank you for following! Here's the link Flash Fiction Liebster Blog Award

Nicole said...

I absolutely LOVE worldbuilding, but the key is to do that for yourself before you actually write the novel. Only a small piece of the whole picture will be relevant to readers.

Jennifer Lane said...

Dorothy living in the Bronx? Ha ha! Setting is rather important to my romantic suspense novels--an "unnamed city" won't do for me. In particular, I like cities that have large bodies of water nearby. I'm not much of a fantasy fan and part of that is the elaborate worlds that are created--I'm much more interested in plot and characterization.

Chris Fries said...

@Cathy: Definitely -- "Less is More." ;^) Thanks for the visit and the comment!

@Gina: I understand your point of view. But in general, I prefer to let the setting develop in my reader's mind. I like to give enough detail to let them form that picture, but I don't want to bog them down in extra description. Still, I do want to have a clear picture of all the details in MY mind when I write -- it helps to determine which details are the improtant ones to share with my readers. Thanks for the comment!

@jessica: Yep. I agree 100%! And you're right -- finding that right balance is tough! Thanks for the visit and the comment!

@Cindy: Thank you! I appreciate the visit and the comment!

@Li: I hear you. Some readers (and writers) love lots of description of setting. I just tend to lean the other way. And thank you very much for the Liebster Award nomination! I will gladly accept it! But since we're winding down on the A-to-Z, I'll do it after Z-day, if that's ok with you.

@Nicole: You are absolutely right! Sometimes the hard part is determining which pieces are the relevent ones. Thank you so much for the visit and the comment!

@Jennifer: I can respect the amount of detail that fantasy writers put into their stories and enjoy reading them ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy is still one of my most favorites series, and I've read many others and liked them), but in general, my tastes tend to lean towards more towards science fiction, mystery, suspense, and weird and quirkly offshoots of that. ;^) In many of those cases, setting can just be a few quick sweeps of the paintbrush on the backdrop. Thank you very much for the visit and the comment!