Friday, February 27, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Hello. My name is Jim, and I’m a liar. This opening is on my list of story prompts. Feel free to use it if you want. I have a quote about lying in fiction, but it doesn’t fit today’s post, so I’m going without one.

In yesterday’s post, I said my plan for the day was to read a few published flash stories to see how description was used. I further stated I’d let my findings float around my brain for the rest of the day before writing the next revision of my current story. Well, I lied.

Lying isn’t something I do on a regular basis, and I didn’t mean to yesterday (nor am I now :)). I read a story -- it was longer than flash -- as planned, but something happened. I was on my treadmill reading a piece in Cemetery Dance,* paying attention to how the author described setting and character. Part way through, all these ideas for my own story rudely interrupted my reading. I made a number of mental notes, and when my thirty minutes of treadmill fun expired, I raced to my office to write them down. (Okay, it was more of an amble.) More ideas popped up, and my printout was a mess of pencil marks. Here’s where the lie came in. I decided the only way I could keep all the new ideas straight was to do a rewrite.

I did learn from this exercise. The first story I read had very little in the way of descriptive information. The opening took place in an unknown setting, as the narrator explained her predicament. A later scene took place in “a hospital room,” and the story ended with a couple on their honeymoon, unpacking in their “motel room.”

The next two stories included a lot of information on the setting and characters. The first took place in a cattle ranch in Texas, and the story contained vivid descriptions of the setting. In one scene in the second story, the main character watched while a circus setup in a field. In both cases, the descriptions were rich in detail.

So what was the difference between the first story and the second two? In the first story, setting wasn’t an important factor to the telling of the story. While in the other two, the setting was integral in describing the characters and creating the atmosphere for the tales.

As for my story, setting isn’t that important, but I did add a few “props” to assist the characters in dealing with the problem at hand.

*Note: Cemetery Dance is closed for submissions until 2010.

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