Story Prompt #32

Setting prompt:

A lone tree reaches toward a bloody sunset in a ring of dirt. Crowds of people bustle around it as hurry home after a long day of work in the city, but none step under it’s outer most leaves. Leaves that look almost garishly green when contrasted with the tree’s white bark. If one were to press their nose close to the smooth bark it would smell coppery, but no one had gotten that close in years. Except, perhaps, whoever tied the white ribbon fluttering in the breeze close to the tree’s trunk.

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Importance of Setting

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Today I thought I’d talk about something that came up in one of my literature classes. We were discussing Winter in the Blood by James Welch. If you’re interested it’s a literary fiction book about a Native American dealing with a feeling of disconnection and his life on a ranch–or so far as I can tell having read the first third of the book. However, in class we spoke about an even smaller section–the opening scene–for the whole 50 minutes. Most of what we talked about had to do with the importance of place, and how the setting and it’s tone that first scene sets up is integral to the story.

I won’t regurgitate what was said in class specifically about the book because I don’t know how many of you are familiar with it, but the essence of what was said applies to any story, I think.

  1. Setting impacts a story and shapes it. (If you want to set a tone of death and despair you aren’t very likely to set the story in a verdant valley full of bunnies, are you?)
  2. It gives insights into the character(s) based on what they notice. (Are they the type of person to know the exact breed of horse with them or are they more interested in the wind and the sounds it’s making? What type of tone do their descriptions evoke?)
  3. Sense of place. (Does the character feel connected to the area around them or do they feel out of place? Separate?)

The setting will impact the characters and how they act as well as how the story plays out. The impact comes as much from logistical things–weather, what’s physically there–as from the tone it sets and other more abstract things that can get attached to it. That’s why it’s important that the reader can picture the setting in their mind instead of just a bunch of white space. Setting grounds a story and gives it a foundation to work from. It can raise the stakes in a fight or otherwise, provide context, give the readers something to connect to, and create interest by giving the characters something to interact with. Setting isn’t just a backdrop, and if you treat as such you’ll be missing out on something that could greatly help your story gain meaning and interest.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions! I hope you all have a fun week!

 

Starting Smaller

Hello Fiction Lovers!

First of all I would like to apologize for not getting this posted yesterday. Between classes starting and the eclipse I was busy enough that I forgot to do so. However, it did give me an idea to write about this week.

Often it seems the idea that “bigger is better” is pretty prevalent in fiction books. The stories of kingdoms and nations rising and falling, saving the world/universe, fighting off evil in epic proportions are stories we see time and time again. I understand why readers like them so much–I like them too, after all–but sometimes it seems we focus so much on the grand tales that we forget that stories can be smaller. Stories on smaller scales don’t equate to being more boring or less interesting–it just means instead of affecting the lives of a hundred or more people, it affects the lives of ten or so people. Perhaps instead of traveling across the world/universe the characters stay in a local setting, or perhaps instead of starting off with a dramatic death (assassination or natural) or someone becoming the chosen one, the story begins with a walk in the woods.

It doesn’t take a lot to change someone’s life and start a new story. Yesterday, two simple things happened that changed how my life will go for the rest of the year: my schedule changed and two things lined up doing something they’ve been doing for years. The solar eclipse might sound grand but they do happen every 50 years or so I’ve heard. The thing that made this one special is proximity, and because of that proximity a crazy amount of people paid attention to the sun and the moon and talked about them for months–when they normally wouldn’t give them a second thought. One small thing–the sun and the moon lining up–created a story in local setting and no battles of epic proportions were needed. Classes starting also created a more exciting narrative for my life than being on my computer all day. A quick change for one person, but it was impactful none the less.

That isn’t to say that you should go write stories only involving school life and eclipses, but sometimes it could be good to have more stories that start with a single, simple event and then stay relatively small. I think I like stories like that as well, because it puts more emphasis on the characters and their relationships than all the grand events happening around and to them. The characters are what make the story to me, and that’s why stories with less grand plots can be just as interesting as those with grand narratives. Both types of stories can be amazing in their own right. It is good to remember, though, that even the most epic of things can become mundane with familiarity, and playing around with that can be interesting as well.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions! Feel to post your thoughts on this in the comments and I hope you all have a good week.

Story Prompt #28

Setting prompt:

A kitchen full of old, nearly broken appliances. The fridge’s door is hanging off it’s hinges, the counters are full of scratches and one’s even dented. Glass from the shattered window glints on lopsided table. The pitchfork shoved in the wooden floor looks like this is it’s final resting spot and it very nearly didn’t get there.

Book Recommendation

Hello Fiction Lovers!

This weekend I was organizing all the books I bought over the years–which made me realize all the books I still want to get in print–and came across some my old favorites. Now I’m planning on revisiting all of the interesting characters and stories they contain over the next few months. I thought I’d share what they are with you as well in case you were looking for something good to read.

The first recommendation is Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series that gives the foundation for many of her other books. It’s about a girl, Alanna, who wants to be knight and has to pretend to be a boy to achieve that goal. I liked watching her grow up as well as the magic and battles that take place throughout the series. Pierce is very good at writing heroines and I would also recommend the other series she’s written.

The next recommendation goes to Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold. It’s the first in a lovely quartet composed of romance, danger, unique magic and monsters, and realistic characters. I believe it’s one of the more distinctive fantasy series I’ve read, in that it did have it’s own distinctive monsters and magic that tied in well together and made sense for the world. It doesn’t rely on preconceived expectations but draws the reader in under it’s own power. It is also one of the best fantasy romances I’ve read to date.

The third recommendation is Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. He also creates a unique world where heroes are reborn as gods and magic is governed by color and Breath. The story involves a reluctant marriage, fear of war, living gods, and a sentient blade. Truth be told, the cover was the thing that first drew me to the book and what really made me want to read it. The cover’s simple but beautiful, and depicts the reluctant bride (so if you’re like me, you can picture her as more than a vague impression hair, hands, and body outline).

Those are the main books I really want to re-read now and I hope you’ll enjoy them as well. Feel free to post in the comments books you would like to re-read and let me know if you have any questions! I hope you have a good week!

Current Writing Projects

Hello Fiction Lovers!

I realized that I haven’t really said much about what I’m currently working on with my writing. Right now, I’m working on editing one manuscript and writing the first draft of another–both have progressed to the point they are at because of the story sections I talked about in an earlier post. I used to be horrible at finishing the stories I was writing (before I switched to a new idea), but doing the story sections has helped me keep focused on the manuscript I’m sending out to friends and family. Because I was so bad at finishing stories, however, I don’t have much experience writing endings or editing so it’s taking a lot of work to get that first manuscript to where I want it to be. The editing is going slowly, but I rather have it take a long time and be good than rush through it and not have it improve much.

The manuscript that is being edited is called The One Who Speaks and is about a young woman, Irene, who loses her voice under mystical circumstances. After the incident she gains a power she didn’t have before and her body starts moving without her direction. The story continues as she tries to find out what exactly what happened and how she can get her voice back. Along the way she is joined by the son of a spirit, Vix, and her cousin, Sao.

The manuscript I am currently writing is called A Cursed Blessing.  The story is told through the eyes of the main character, Ismelle, a family of nobles keeping a secret, and young woman trying to follow her goddess-driven dreams. As the story continues you learn more about each of the characters from their perspective as they try to figure out why monsters are appearing, worry about the danger Ismelle’s presence in the manor poses, and try to keep their secrets.

Do either of these stories sound interesting to you? Please let me know what you think and feel free to share what you are currently working on writing-wise. Thank you for reading and let me know if you have any questions.