Wr.Tu.Th: Setting

We’re due for a new installment of Writing Tutorial Thursday. This week’s theme is setting.

Writing Tutorial: The Setting

Disclaimer: The information presented herein is based on what I, personally, have learned in my educational and professional careers. This tutorial is simply meant to offer some helpful tips.

INTRODUCTION: So you have an amazing plot and some really awesome characters. Where are you going to put them? Setting is especially important in works of fiction so that the reader has a proper stage in which to imagine your story play out. Now it’s time to figure out the where, when, what details of your novel’s backdrop. What are a few tips to remember when figuring out your story’s setting, though? Have no fear, I’m here to help!

1) One of the first things you may want to do is to imagine the world of your story. Brainstorm. Remember some fundamentals:

  • time (historical, time of day, year, etc.)
  • geography (natural and man-made)
  • climate and weather
  • specific location (country, state, neighborhood, etc.)

2) Show, don’t tell. When describing your setting to readers, don’t just say it was “a rainy Wednesday.” Say the monotonous pitter-patter on the windows added to the dreary weekday afternoon. Use imagery, metaphor, simile and other literary devices to add excitement to your writing.

3) Use your characters to present setting. A good way to bring the setting to your reader is through the eyes of your character. Make your reader feel the spring breeze, hear the truck down the street, and cough in the smoky, crowded cafe. Use your character’s five senses to describe the backdrop of a scene.

4) Use details that make sense to the plot. Your setting should tie into the plot. You wouldn’t want to write a story about a playground bully but have the setting be a circus. That just doesn’t make sense. Make sure the setting of each scene in your novel is there for a reason.

5) It’s all about balance. It’s important to remember not to overwhelm your chapters with pages of setting descriptions. Your setting is meant to be a backdrop, remember? It should only be there as a stage where the main performers act out the play. If you find yourself writing paragraphs about a room, sit back and think about what’s most important about the room. Sure it’s an old room, but maybe it’s the creepy painting over the fireplace. Focus on that.

Do you have any other suggestions? Questions? Let me know. As always, the way to better writing is by practicing!

Until next time. Happy writing!

Wr.Tu.Th.: Plot Development

Welcome to today’s Writing Tutorial Thursday. Today it’s all about Plot Development.

Disclaimer: The information presented herein is based on what I, personally, have learned in my educational and professional careers. This tutorial is simply meant to offer some helpful tips.

INTRODUCTION: Usually, works of fiction undoubtedly include a plot. Characters can certainly help, but it is the plot—the story—that draws the reader into the imaginary world you create. It’s no easy task to develop a solid plot, however. Sometimes authors leave their readers frustrated and confused, with many unanswered questions.

Hopefully I can offer some advice to make sure you hit important plot points in your work.

1) What’s the point? The biggest thing you need to figure out is your novel’s main goal. What is your protagonist working toward? You need to figure out what the whole point of your novel is before you can do anything else. Sit down and brainstorm. Think about what purpose you want your character to fulfill, how he/she is going to do so, what obstacles will get in his/her way, and what the outcome will be.

2) Who’s in charge, anyway? Decide how you will present your story. Choose which point of view to use.

3) Know your characters. You should know the ins and outs of the characters you are using to propel your plot. (For information on developing compelling characters, see this tutorial.) Similarly, your characters should not just stand in the background. They should affect the plot through their actions.

4) Conflicts. Conflict is what drives your plot forward. You need your characters to go through constant struggles in order to get to the final goal. Sprinkle conflict throughout your novel so that the characters not only move the plot along, but also grow with the experiences. (Hint: Your subjects don’t need to overcome every obstacle. Show how they learn from failures and mistakes.)

5) Let it flow. As writers, we tend to think five times faster than our fingers can type. (Or, at least I do.) Don’t try to force your plot, though. Let it come naturally. Meaning, each event or action in your novel should lead effortlessly into the next. Nothing should be jarring. Remember your school essays: transitions between paragraphs! Well, don’t forget to link all the events in your novel together.

Likewise, the pace shouldn’t falter, either. It will probably speed up and slow down as the story progresses, but it should definitely not stutter out completely.

6) Proper placement. The climax is an integral part of your story. So far, what has happened in your novel has lead up to this, so make sure it matches the rest of the tone of your story. For example, you don’t want to fill pages with foreshadowing descriptions, convincing the reader that something dire is about to happen to the main character, but then simply say he caught a cold and had to stay in bed for three days. What a letdown.

7) Know when to stop. We all love our characters, but the time comes when we must end the story. Your character has to reach his/her goal sometime, remember? You don’t have to tie things up in a neat little bow (in fact, it’s more believable if you don’t), but you shouldn’t drag things out either. (For example: Your character has overcome the primary conflict of the story, but since you have developed him/her so well, your readers can imagine that he/she can triumph over other conflicts in the future.) If you want to keep writing your characters, consider a sequel. Don’t continue the story when the story has clearly ended.

So those are my tips for good plot development. Do you have any other suggestions? Questions? Let me know! Don’t forget that the way to better writing is by practicing.

Happy writing!