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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Elizabeth George: Setting in Action



In Write Away, Elizabeth George discusses how she uses setting in her fiction.

SETTING

For George, the setting is like a living thing. It can tell a lot about a character, and it can evoke an emotional reaction in the reader. The purpose of setting includes creating atmosphere and mood. It can also contrast with what’s going on in the scene, such as when something bad happens in a peaceful setting. The writer should treat the landscape with the same importance as she treats the character.

ON LOCATION

George likes to write about places she knows, often going to where a story will take place. She notes everything from the flora and fauna to the buildings to the type of sky. She takes photos as well. However, if she needs to, she creates a setting, usually an amalgamation of different places she already knows. She wants the setting to be as real as possible for the reader. The greater reality it has for the writer, the greater reality it will have for the reader.

CHARACTER’S ENVIRONMENT

There’s also the setting that’s the environment the character inhabits—his home, bedroom, automobile, and so forth. These things reveal a lot about a character without the need for extensive explanation.

LANDSCAPE

OUTER LANDSCAPE

Each character has an outer landscape—his looks, skin, hair, eyes, posture, voice, the clothes he wears, and so forth.

INNER LANDSCAPE

Each character has an inner landscape—his thoughts, beliefs, objectives, interior monologue, and so on.

CONCRETE DETAILS

Effective settings require concrete details. Details are an excellent way of showing what a setting is like.

DESCRIPTION IN MOTION

Perhaps the most effective kind of description is that which blends in with the narrative without interrupting the flow of the story.
 
Elizabeth George wants her fiction to be as real for the reader as possible. The setting in all its forms, described in telling details, helps achieve that goal. She wants to own her setting and, if she does own it, it helps the reader to own it, too.
 
How much importance does setting have in your fiction?
How do you approach describing setting in your writing?
How much effort do you put into using concrete details in your setting?
How much effort do you put into using details to reveal facts about a character?
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