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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Treating Setting as a Thing

It’s October and NaNoWriMo is barreling towards us at increasing speed. I am not at all sure that I will participate this year, though it seems to me that I need to – if only to focus my efforts.

In fact, one of the stories started as NaNoWriMo sits untouched because after some time it became clear that it was derivative without any good twists to make it truly a gem. It can remain in the dark until I can salvage it (from itself or for parts, as the case may be). I’d rather not publish than release subpar material.

To me, this is not a failure so much as a reason to try something else creatively. Perhaps I am being too hard on myself and the story ought to be told as a fantastic ridiculous little tale meant to amuse and nothing else.

I have produced less this year than I intended. I did publish The Mistress, and have been writing a collection of stories (Bloody Trail of Disenchantment). The plan is still to have it on sale for the holidays.

One of the stories seems to have escaped me. The moment I felt it coming on, I should have just started it. I took notes on the setting and a passage I wanted to see in the story (all setting, nothing plot-related). I lost the feel of the characters because I no longer understand the motivation of one or the reactions of the other.

And while I am saddened by the probable loss of what may have been a fantastic tale, I would like to advocate writing scenes where the object is nothing more than to preserve scenery.

Setting defines a place, but it also helps with mood and ambiance; and sometimes it becomes part of the story, as an additional character in the story (that is one strong and enduring place!).
What I am advocating is writing observations about places, lyrical and clinical alike, with or without characters (they are not what's important in this exercise). Keep these notes in a drawer – or a database, thumb drive or sticky notes. Preserve the scene like some omniscient CSI... 'cause setting is a thing.

Even if you are not dedicated to a story, a novel, or any one specific project, you are still writing.

More importantly, these seemingly throwaway scenes can become part of your writing later. Reading through your own writing, even if it belongs to no particular story will help you brainstorm with yourself – try to ascribe story to setting, if all other inspiration fails you.

Not everything that you write will be golden, but it shouldn’t stop you from writing. Think of it as exercising that part of your brain that sees these stories before the rest of your brain lets you in on it.

There is an upcoming interview that may bring the story back in some other guise. There’s research to do, songs to sing and poems to write. I may have slowed a little, but I ain’t done… There’s plenty of story left in me. And come Black Friday, there will be a few cheaters between the sheets (for the paperback at least). 

So back to work, I have stories to write and a cover to design! 

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