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Author Topic: Weaving setting into story  (Read 1205 times)

Offline ThiefofHope

Weaving setting into story
« on: August 28, 2017, 04:48:48 PM »
I'm starting my current project's Draft II next week. Second drafts are usually the ones in which I add all the details, concrete descriptions, and sorta put the muscles on the bones of the first draft.

One of my personal pet peeves in fiction is everything in a room/area being described at once. I prefer description to be a little more spread out than that (but not so much you lose track of where things are). I used to be able to weave setting in really well but for whatever reason I've become clunky and obvious in my descriptions. Does anyone have advice for weaving setting into prose in a way that isn't distracting or blatant?

Edit: I write in third person limited and there are 5 different MCs.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2017, 05:16:42 PM by ThiefofHope »
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Offline Henry Dale

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Re: Weaving setting into story
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2017, 05:09:39 PM »
It would help to know what pov you are writing from actually... One character, multiple characters, omniscient?
Seems like important information in this case.


(followed your worldbuilding spotlight recently, nice world ^^)


Offline ThiefofHope

Re: Weaving setting into story
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2017, 05:11:36 PM »
It would help to know what pov you are writing from actually... One character, multiple characters, omniscient?
Seems like important information in this case.


(followed your worldbuilding spotlight recently, nice world ^^)

Third person limited with 5 different MCs. And thank you!
"Cowards are better at surviving. Perhaps that is why you have lived this long." --Seryll Numarya

Offline Yora

Re: Weaving setting into story
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2017, 10:08:45 PM »
When you want to describe the look of an environment, don't go with describing the details from general down to specifics. Instead the goal has to be to create a feel for the environment by using a few select details that evoke a certain atmosphere. Only describe the specific layout and architecture of a location to a level that is really necessary to make the scene understandable.
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Weaving setting into story
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2017, 05:38:20 AM »
Mimic filmmakers. They have the same task - to show setting, and they face the same decisions: what to show first, what to emphasize, when to make things unique and extraordinary/when to use the cliché so the setting doesn't get in the way of more important things, etc.
Make a study of some good films and note when a scene unfolds what elements are shown and in what order and why. Know that when you see a scene in a movie with an uninteresting setting - that was a choice, and usually an effective one. It's bland by design. And when it's distinctive, that, too, was a decision, but only the first of many: how distinctive and in what way? What purpose does it serve?

In writing, including my own, I find that settings tend to be underutilized and over-described. Mimic the focus of the camera - direct the reader's eye to what's most important, and do not try to make every single thing distinctive. Don't be afraid to summarize. Take only the time and space that the setting needs and that the scene will permit and no more.

My last suggestion is to let the senses be your guide. Sight is twice as important as hearing, which is twice as important as touch and smell in action scenes, the reverse in quieter moments, where we are more mindful of smells and sensations. Hitting all the senses, each place should have a scent, a texture or touch-sensation (warmth, cold, vibration), two sounds, and four sight elements - a color, a brightness, a contrast, and either motion or a lack of it. These should be spread across the first 1/2 of a scene imho, with one saved for the end or a final touch added for contrast. Plot will require other scene elements and description, but that, imho, is no longer setting, it's setting as character or plot, etc., and that requires more.

I hope this is helpful.
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Offline Skip

Re: Weaving setting into story
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2017, 08:19:18 PM »
It's a peeve of mine as well, except when it isn't. I can think of plenty of examples where the author gives us whole passages of description and it worked. Of course, I can think of plenty more where it didn't work. I think it's important to recognize both.

There are a couple of things that setting accomplishes. One is to set or to reinforce mood (sometimes even theme). One is to bring to the reader's attention something of importance. Other folk here will no doubt be able to add to the list.

There are a couple of ways of going about these couple of things. One is stuff the character notices. This one's really important because Character A won't notice the same things as Character B. What gets noticed and how it gets noticed will tell the reader something about the character as well as the thing being described. Other times, the narrator steps in to describe something that cannot be seen from the character POV. Scene-setting often employs this approach.

Any of this can be done well or badly, and I have no advice on that score. I have noticed, though, that books where I thought this was done well share certain characteristics. The author relies on various ways to weave the setting into the story. That implies there's not just a single "correct" approach. I've noticed, too, that the good writers manage to make a description accomplish things at multiple levels. It might enhance the mood as it also describes the physical layout of a space, as well as giving some insight into one or more characters even as it adds a little color or world-building context.

Setting, iow, is not a single thing but is multifaceted. And there are many ways to weave.