From Laurie Ann Doyle (Airports, Catacombs and Rooftops: Setting in Fiction and Memoir, Sun., Nov. 15):
When I bring up the element of setting in fiction and memoir, people’s eyes sometimes glaze over. Oh setting, they say, I’ll put that in later. But when I talk about the world of your story—its physical environment—they’re interested. Think about Moby Dick without the ocean, I say, or To Kill a Mockingbird (or Go Set a Watchman) without rural Mississippi. Every human being has a profound connection to time and place. In creating the world of your story, first consider the physical environment in its largest sense, whether it’s the southwest desert, the city of Nashville, or Saturn’s icy moon. Then focus in on a smaller area— the trail up a barren mountain, the recording studio, the crash site—and get your character acting within it. What challenges does this particular place pose for this particular person? Use sensory details—sights, sounds, smells—to describe this space. What’s the light like? No two people see the world in quite the same way.
Note Two: Our Latest Favorite Book on Writing
From Meghan Ward (Blogging for Beginners, 4 sessions starting Mon., Nov 2; Edit Yourself: How to Make a Good Manuscript Great, Sun., Nov 15; Social Media Bootcamp, Sun., Nov 22):
I don’t normally recommend books on blogging because social media platforms and tools change so rapidly that how-to books tend to be outdated by the time they hit the shelves. But when I saw Joy Deangdeelert Cho’s Blog Inc. at the bookstore, I had to have a copy. Despite the grammatically incorrect subtitle (Blogging for Passion, Profit and to Create Community), this beautiful little book is full of fantastic advice for the new blogger—everything from blogging community etiquette to SEO and blog monetization. Cho even includes interviews with fabulously successful bloggers like Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere and Joanna Goddard of A Cup of Jo. From now on, I’m going to recommend it to all my Blogging for Beginners students.
Note Three: What We’re Reading Now
From Karen Bjorneby (Fiction Workshop: Ratcheting Up Conflict, 6 sessions starting Thurs., Oct 15):
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. I like the way she takes what would be
realist domestic strife – an unhappy married couple deep in financial crisis – and
then places that couple in an extraordinary time and place. As I read, I’m
noting how skillfully she’s paced the story, so that major plot turns happen
exactly where they should. I’m also noting how the characters’ internal
struggles and their interpersonal conflicts are both deepened and magnified by
the social conflicts within the story world. Atwood’s novel takes place in a
dystopian near-future, but writers of realist fiction can learn from her too.
If you’re struggling with pacing, take a look at how Atwood turns the story at
each quarter mark, where the main characters reveal first darker and then more self-aware
and heroic aspects of themselves. If you want to deepen the meaning or increase
the stakes in your story, look at how she weaves social conflict, which is
always around us, with personal conflict.
Note Four: Upcoming Classes