Monday, November 15, 2010

In Your Own Little World

Hello writers!

We all create worlds in our writing. Whether it's drafting something as simple as a letter to a friend or as complex as a novel with a thick plot and multiple characters, we are in the business, as writers, of constructing unique spaces for our readers to inhabit temporarily. There are almost as many techniques for doing this as there are writers. Some of us, as poets or narrators of fiction, write very descriptively about the physical world; some reach down deep for apt and unexpected metaphors to describe an emotional or spiritual world; still other's rely on cleverly constructed dialoque to do the job of constructing and describing worlds in their writing. Each writer does something unique. Moreover, each writer makes decisions about what she wants her writing to accomplish, and selects a method to achieve that end. How important is it, for instance, that your reader be able almost to smell the fresh apple pie baking in granny's kitchen? Or are other things more important to your narrative, like your main character's feeling of emotional distress? Are relationships the most important component in your story? If so, perhaps dialoque between two characters would be most effective in fleshing out the world in which your story takes place. A lot depends, of course, on whether your story is plot centered or character centered, and it often it makes a difference whether your narrative mode is 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person. A plot centered narrative may not focus as much on any particular character's internal dialoque, for example. But, on the other hand, if this narrative is written in 1st person, it may have the inverse effect, and emphasize the protagonist's mental processes, more than it otherwise would. These are not hard and fast rules, however, and experimentation in creating literary settings is part of the fun of being a creative writer.

What about you? How do you construct settings in your writing? Do your characters' mental and emotional environments inform the narrative more than the physical or social aspects of their world, or vise versa? What methods or techniques do you employ to accomplish the goals of your narrative? What methods are most helpful to you? Shoot me a comment or start a discussion with me about it here!


  1. I started a discussion at NaBloPoMo :) Here's the link:

    I also posted on my blog - you inspired me! :) Here's that link!

    And to be thorough *wink* here's the jist:

    When I consider narrative developement, my process is simple. Feel the story; show my readers what I see, and do it in such a way that they barely realize that they are no longer sitting and reading, but have become an emotional part of the narrative before them. I want my reader to become the character - to see what she sees, feel what she feels, and to experience every conflict as if they were actually there, in the story, in her skin. I achieve this by writing, for the most part, in real time. I prefer active tense to passive, and first person to third. I feel that if a story should not so much be told, as lived. The emotional, mental, and spiritual impact is far greater, in my opinion. And as a writer, if I connect with my characters, and with my story, I believe that my audience will as well.

  2. For an amazing example of this, I highly recommend reading The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (there are three sequential sets). Stephen R. Donaldson is a master of experiential literature, and my greatest muse!

  3. What is writing in the 2nd person like? I am trying to picture it but I am not sure....I like writing in the first person when recalling my memories and in the 3rd person when writing a fictional story.
    My goal in telling a story is to show a situation that brought about some life lesson or clarity for me. I like to wonder what the other people think in my memory as they were there but maybe saw something I had missed?
    I love reading books that awake in me something I can relate to, something that has me thinking again:-)

  4. The 2nd person narrative is a mode in which the main character is referred to using personal pronouns, often the word "you." Here's an example of 2nd person narrative:

    "You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy." —Opening lines of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984)

    You have some great insights, Deb! I especially like what you said about getting inside the heads of other participants of situations you're reliving in memory!

  5. Great post!

    I like your blog very much.

    - Lauren

    Ladaisi Blog

  6. My sister and I began a new chapter in our own world this past Dec. 11th. We began a year-long sojourn around the country. The purpose is to see our own homeland as it is in the small places--those places infrequented by tourists but which help drive whatever economy stumbles along now.

    My narratives, as author, utilize sister's photos for documentation. Having photos to write against has become a wonderful tool for me as a writer. I've learned to see new things without the personalized experience factor with those digital helpers. That's a plus in so many ways.

  7. Claudsy, that is inspiring! Sometimes a visual catlyst is tremendously helpful! Thank you for sharing!



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