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#NaNoWriMo Prep: Site Your Settings | #amwriting #NaNo2018

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What Do You Already Know about Your Settings?
One of the sections I suggested when creating your NaNo project story bible was for setting.

So you don’t have to go back and read the original post:

If you’re writing a world-building genre—like fantasy, science fiction, or historical—you’re going to have a relatively large section for your setting—large enough that you may want to create a subgroup (basically giving you a notebook within a notebook) or a separate notebook just for world-building. But even when writing contemporaries set in places we’re familiar with (like for me when I was writing the Matchmakers series, set in Nashville), we’re going to need a place to keep information about our settings. What do your characters’ homes or workplaces look like? Where are things located geographically? What’s the topography or weather like?

Again, because I’m returning to a previously created fictional setting, I was able to go ahead and start adding pages (all of them blank right now except for this one—and this one has info because I already had it in another OneNote Notebook).

Setting is where I tend to split things up a bit. I’ll keep the research/development part of my setting information (text) in OneNote, but I’ll collect setting images in Pinterest. It’s so much easier, and it doesn’t take up space on my computer.

In the past, I’ve also done things like hand-draw a map of my fictional city of Bonneterre, Louisiana, and hang it on the wall for easy reference. (And then I took a digital picture of it and put it in my folder of images in my cloud drive so I could access it anytime I needed it—yes, that’s it in the image from OneNote above.)

In addition to just the general location of where your story is set (for me, that’s my fictional city of Bonneterre, Louisiana), knowing at least some of the specific locales within your setting before the marathon writing starts will be a good idea.

Assignment 1: If you don’t already have a section for Settings in your story bible, create one. Then add whatever you already know about your settings.

Get More Specific with Your Setting
This is one of the few times in this prep cycle that I’m suggesting that we dive a little deeper into figuring things out ahead of time. That’s because if we’re already familiar with where the scenes we’re going to write can take place, it’ll make writing easier.

  1. Does your setting have a unique culture (traditions, observances, taboos, quirks, etiquette) that can play a role in your story?
    #FirstDraft60 Day 24: Getting Specific with Your Setting | KayeDacus.comThink of places that have cultures that are unique to them: Santa Fe, Greece, Louisiana, Las Vegas, the Deep South, Hawaii, a small fishing town on the coast of Ireland, a ship of the line in the 19th century Royal Navy, etc. What are the unique elements of a setting that you can incorporate into your characters’ background/mannerisms/behavior and into how your story unfolds?
  2. What are the elements of the culture you need to make sure you get absolutely right?
    If you’ve read my Bonneterre books, you know I don’t have people walking around calling each other cher or babbling in Cajun French. If you live somewhere with a unique culture and watch movies/TV shows set there, what are the things that they get wrong that drive you crazy? How can you make sure you get those elements right?
  3. What are some specific locations and/or events you can incorporate into your story?
    day-24-frothy-monkeyIn the Matchmakers series, set in Nashville, I have my girls meet for coffee on Sunday afternoons at The Frothy Monkey in the 12 South neighborhood. In the Bonneterre series, with my fictional setting, I created Beignets S’il Vous Plait, a beignets-and-coffee shop reminiscent of Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans or Coffee Call in Baton Rouge. Use specific locations, but have a reason for using those locations. Don’t just “name drop.”
  4. How can your setting affect how your story plays out?
    For example, if you’re writing suspense and your characters are on the run outdoors, they’re going to run into much different conflicts in a mountainous area than in a desert than in a jungle. Is it cold and snowy? hot and humid? Does your character have environmental allergies that could affect whether or not he’s able to do the physical activities required of him in the plot? Is he a sailor who suffers from seasickness? Someone who works in mountain search and rescue who suddenly gets a bad case of vertigo?

Assignment 2: Take about 10–15 minutes to write down your answers to each of these questions. If you need to look things up and/or find images to help, feel free. Just don’t spend too much time on this—getting that specific can wait until the first round of revisions.

Setting the Mood
Think about the cliche of the gothic novel being set in a creepy, dark, old castle with a labyrinth of hallways, tunnels, and dungeons. There’s a reason why it’s become cliche—because it works. One of my favorite YA novels from childhood is a gothic, but it’s set in a recently built Victorian mansion in Northern California in the late 1800s. The author uses the house, and the fog that envelops it daily, to great effect.

Although we don’t want to get caught up in the whole idea of making sure we’re choosing exactly the “right word” when we’re marathon writing, If you know ahead of time what mood you’re trying to invoke, it can help you as you write—so that you don’t feel stuck, searching for the “right word.”

Assignment 3: Think about how the weather, the landscape, the culture, etc., of your setting can affect and effect the mood of your story. Create a Mood Words page in your Settings section and take 10-15 minutes to free-write a list of words (adjectives, nouns, verbs) that evoke the tone you want. Use a thesaurus if you must in order to kickstart your brainstorming, but don’t rely on it to find words that don’t naturally come to mind.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. taylorsl83 permalink
    Friday, October 26, 2018 1:51 pm

    My setting is a large country house (manor/estate) in Regency era England, plus the nearby village. Might be another location or two but not sure yet.

    Like

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