Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reveal Setting a Little at a Time

“The writer’s challenge is to integrate setting into a scene’s other components, such as dialog and action, so that it is vivid without interrupting or intruding on the events.” -- William G. Tapley in The Elements of Mystery Fiction.
This was a problem in my early short stories. Instead of revealing aspects of the setting a little at a time, I made the beginner's mistake of writing paragraphs of description that did more to slow the pace of the story than add value to the tale.

Now I attempt to reveal the setting in little bites, often by mixing glimpses of where the characters are through their actions. I don’t write about a tree-lines street, or that it’s cloudy. I have a character experience this as she walks down a neighborhood street. I let the reader “see” the location through the character’s senses, thoughts and actions. Or at least I try to. I don’t always get it right. There’s still a disconnect at times between how I perceive the setting and what information I share with the reader, but I’m getting better at letting the reader into my head.

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