fiction writing wk5

T​‌‍‌‍‍‌‍‌‌‌‍‍‍‍‌‌‌‌‌​his week I’d like to talk about setting and description–about the PLACE of stories. We usually hear about setting and description as though they are accessories, a pretty skin to your story. I think that place should be deeper than that, bigger than a few sensory details that show the characters’ surroundings. But what does that mean? How do you do that? I think that to really create or see a place, it’s important to remember that our lives aren’t separate from the places we inhabit–we walk through places infusing them with our emotional associations. We feel at home or uncomfortable. Place is not just the natural world, but all of the collected objects and detritus, the furniture, the mumblings, the habits and details of a place and time. The more you can choose to include details that show us something about the emotional world of your character, the stronger our sense of the place will be–because we are understanding the ways that the character has interacted with his or her setting. In other words, filter your setting through the eyes of your characters–what details matter to them? What do they notice? When I was a very young girl my grandmother had a chipped, grubby china figurine of a woman in a ball gown that she kept on a tall shelf and brought down for me to carefully kiss, and that figurine reminds me more about that place and time than any descriptions of her boxy little house, worn carpet, or rose garden. This week, I’d like you to read a craft essay by the writer Dorothy Allison, originally published in The Writer​‌‍‌‍‍‌‍‌‌‌‍‍‍‍‌‌‌‌‌​’s Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House. I think she does an incredible job of writing the experience of place in a way that makes me want to write better and sharper. I’m also asking you to complete another freewrite, which I’ll detail below. Here’s the work for this week. Readings & Discussions: Read Dorothy Allison’s craft lecture on place. You can find it at this link: (Links to an external site.) Read Ron Hansen’s story Wickedness, in the Scribner anthology, pp. 253-265 please post your response to the following: Share your thoughts on the Dorothy Allison essay and on the Hansen story. How important is place to you, in your writing or as a reader? Are there techniques that you use or ways that you go about trying to create a sense of place on the page? Freewrite: Give yourself thirty minutes to respond to the following: Begin with a place and a time. Consider a character in this setting–it can be a character you’ve worked with before, or a new one. Without editing or overthinking, begin a list of associations that your character has with this place and time. Think: Details. Songs on the radio. Small humiliations. The sounds of the neighbors. Lunch. Clothing. Meaningful objects. Triumphs. The cadence of people talking. Body language. Friday night. Monday night. What does your character love most about this moment in time and place? What do they hate? From here, choose anything that inspires you and begin fr​‌‍‌‍‍‌‍‌‌‌‍‍‍‍‌‌‌‌‌​eewriting a bit of scene.

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