Tuesday, March 1, 2011

One difference between describing setting and characters.

I love the picture of the sunset. Loved it when I took it. Means a lot. If I was describing it in a novel, outside the off chance the novel is about a sun that's about to explode or some other such plot that would require me to pay it homage, I wouldn't spend more than ten words on it. It's a sunset, we've all seen them, some more beautiful than others. Most of the writers on Critique Circle, AW, and Scribophile have been told enough to keep the description brief. But I don't ever remember a discussion on where in the scene the setting can or should be introduced. The first impulse is to put it in the front so the reader has the colors and general feel of the scene like he would watching a movie. But it's not a movie, and you're in a POV character's head. When the scene starts, unless the character is aware of his surroundings at the moment the scene is happening, it's perfectly acceptable to work the setting description in later. Put a description of the setting in during the course of the conversation as the POV character is forced to look at them and take notice, or does so voluntarily.

How many times have we all been engaged in conversation and been focused on the person across from us, or on a problem, and been unaware of our surroundings? A book should follow the POV character's thoughts and focus, not try to be a movie. If it's a screenplay, by all means put a hint of setting to open every scene.

Characters are different. If someone's talking to you, unless they're behind you, or walking beside you, there's a good chance you're looking at them and watching them speak. I hate leaving the reader with no face or at least a general brushstroke of something to watch the words come from.


  1. Lovely, blog, Fred. Congrats!
    As to settings, I agree with you. It's all fluff to skim if an author goes on and on about something as mundane as a a bolt from a colorful sunrise, about to go nova and kill a bunch of people.

  2. Forgot to mention, I'm off to yell at Barbara for not telling me you have a blog. If you fall into the hell of tweeting and FB, be sure to follow and friend.

  3. Hi Arlene. I'm not exactly advertising the blog at this point. Frankly, I'm a bit embarassed at how little I really have to say.