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Book: Preparing to Write Settings That Feel Like Characters by J Lenni Dorner
My dice roll: 269 (ebook location out of 559)
Lesson: Using attributes of the setting to reveal story information.
Because I have permission from the author (me), I’m going to copy the exact text here:
Attributes might be the weather or unusual decorations. It might also be how these things mirror a character. A room full of sunflowers mirrors a cheery character, for example. Or a dark and somber room mirrors a parent who lost a child, yet the setting outside the house is an active playground. This lets the setting paint an emotion, or mood, for the reader. A special attribute would be one that makes this setting different from the others. Antarctica, for example, has unique climate conditions and wildlife. A certain atmosphere might give clues to the state of mind of the characters, such as a world filled with death and decay. A setting taking place on the front line of a war during a snowstorm will be different than a setting in the peaceful countryside on a warm summer day. Special attributes might help the reader figure out which war is going on or where that particular countryside is located. (This is another example of when flags can come into play, as they often narrow down locations or who military personnel represent.)
And here is a sample of that from my own work. To know how this applies to the lesson, you need to know that Xavier is in no danger of actually freezing. The snow mirrors Xavier at this point in the story. Wend is on the phone with him. He’s outside on a balcony.
Xavier gasped as his back was pelted with unexpected freezing cold water running off the roof. He leapt out of the chair knocking it over in the process, creating a loud, echoing clang. Spinning around, he saw Jez, who wiggled her fingers in a mocking wave. He made a face at her.
“Are you all right? What happened?” a frantic Wend asked.
“It was just some cold melted snow on my back.”
“You can feel it through your jacket?” Why does anyone stick around for snow? Haven’t they learned about migration from a large portion of the bird population by now?
“I’m not wearing a jacket. Just pants.”
“Xavier! What are you doing outside half naked? You’ll freeze to death— or at the very least get frostbite. Have you gone mad?”
“Maybe I have.” A wicked grin crossed his face. The water on his back had already warmed, the brief feeling of cold having passed, once again. “What would you say if I threatened to stay out here like this until you agreed to give me that date we almost had? Do not marry him until you give me one chance, one night, to woo you away.”
“Xavier…” she whimpered.
“Burr, it’s cold out here. And I think I feel another doozy of a snowstorm coming on!” His voice dropped to a low sexy whisper. “You wouldn’t make me freeze to death, would you, hon?”
“Go inside, Xavier. I’m not making you do anything. But I’m also not going to agree to your demands, not while this ring is on my finger.”
He considered this. “Take it off. Then agree.” He grinned.
Have you ever read a story where the setting helped flesh out the characters? Do you have a favorite example of that to share?
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