Monday, June 7, 2010

What does the setting say about your character?

I remember watching an episode of Oprah many years ago. An idea was suggested that I've never forgotten. The guest on the show told everyone to picture the room in their house that embarrassed them the most - the room that if anyone walked in to it unexpectedly, would cause you to be mortified. Well, to be honest, I pictured my master bathroom. It's the last room of my house to ever get cleaned. (TMI?)

Anyway, the guest went on to suggest that this one room says a lot about you. The feelings you have about this room say a lot about you. And, the fact that this room is the way it is, says a lot about you. Why is that room a disaster? Or why does that room cause you stress? These ideas have made me think and analyze myself.

Today in my writing, I plan to take ideas from a chapter in "The Fire in the Fiction" by Donald Maass and apply it to some revisions. The chapter from his book happens to be "The World of the Novel" - - which discusses the setting in your book.  As I re-read highlighted passages, I was reminded of the Oprah episode.

Maass writes, "The trick ... is to discover in your setting what is unique for your characters. ...make them grapple with it as surely as they grapple with the main problem and their enemies. is the combination of setting details and the emotions attached to them that, together, make a place a living thing" (pages 82-83).

So... I'm off to discover which room of the house embarrasses my characters the most and why. I can't guarantee these passages will make it into the final draft, but who knows? Maybe this revision will be part of a new masterpiece! ha.

1 comment:

  1. You know I am a pretty tidy person, my house could use a throurough scrub down though, but the empty fourth bedroom upstairs is a complete wreck. We dump all kinds of misc. crap up there that we don't want to deal with.

    Your analogy is totally true because I just shove things in my life in a corner and hope they'll go away instead of sorting them out head on. Thanks for the post!