How Important is Setting in #Fiction ? #writing #wepff


Fictional settings Blogfest

Memorable Settings in Fiction

Last week, we spoke about Settings in Fiction, how important setting is in sucking a reader into a story, and heard from Denise Covey and Yolanda Renée  on their event: Spectacular Settings.

For this event, you needed to:

  1. SUBMIT your name to the Inlinkz list NOW if you wish to participate
  2. CREATE your entry according to the theme – August – Spectacular Settings. More info here
  3. EDIT until your entry sparkles
  4. PUBLISH  on your blog August 19 – 26 –  state feedback preferences (full critique to general)
  5. DELETE your former link & add the new direct link with the URL of your entry.
  6. READ  & COMMENT 

Basically, we needed to add a setting excerpt that inspired us (Part A), and post something of our own (Part B).

My entry:

Part A : My excerpt is from a remarkable book, Perfume, by Patrick Süskind: I love this because it shows us Paris through the sense of smell alone, and sets the stage not just for the murder and putrescence to follow in the novel, but also the ‘perfume’ theme.

In the period of which we speak, there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women.  The streets stank of manure, the courtyards of urine, the stairwells stank of moldering wood and rat droppings, the kitchen of spoiled cabbage and mutton fat; the unaired parlors stank of stale dust, the bedrooms of greasy sheets, damp featherbeds, and the pungently sweet aroma of chamberpots. The stench of sulfur rose from the chimneys, the stench of caustic lyes from the tanneries, and from the slaughterhouses came the stench of congealed blood. People stank of sweat and unwashed clothes; from their mouths came the stench of rotting teeth, from their bellies that of onions, and from their bodies, if they were no longer young, came the stench of rancid cheese and sour milk and tumorous disease. The rivers stank, the marketplaces stank, the churches stank, it stank beneath the bridges and in the palaces…And of course the stench was foulest in Paris, for Paris was the largest city of France.”

Part B: Mine is a scene from Chapter 7 of my novel WIP, tentatively titled Underneath the Skin: (This is an unpolished draft, and I’m hoping to use your suggestions to tweak it further. The text contains italicized Hindi words and ‘Indian English’ dialogues, and I’m hoping they add to the atmosphere without taking away from the reader’s understanding: I need to know if this is not so. This is the first time I’m putting it out there. Would love to do beta exchanges for anyone else with a WIP. I have posted it as a picture to prevent content scraping: please click on it twice (not double-click) to get a large font size.)

Novel excerpt: Settings

Click on the picture Twice to get a bigger Font Size: opens in a new window

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Settings in Fiction: Critique

Settings in Fiction: Critique

WORD COUNT : 868

FCA : This is an absolutely unpolished draft, so I’m more than happy to do a crit in exchange for anyone who posts a detailed crit. I usually never put out anything this raw, but this time, I’m going to try it as an experiment. I have every faith in Denise and Yolanda, and this community they’ve created, to help hone my writing in the piece. I trust this blog’s readers, as well– I’ve never regretted being vulnerable in this space.

While this post is for a writers’ event, I also invite readers (who’re not writers or publishing professionals) to share their thoughts.

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Would love to know your impression on both excerpts.

Want to join in Spectacular Settings? You can still sign up.

Have you read the book  Perfume? Would you read it, based on the excerpt? Why, why not?

Based on the excerpt from my WIP, would you like to know more about the character and how she fits into this setting? What did you like about the descriptions? What can be done better? How can the setting show off the character better?

As a reader, how important is setting to you when you read a piece of fiction?

Are you part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group? #IWSG #amwriting


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group every month! Go to the site to see the other participants.

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Insecure Writer's Support Group

Insecure Writers!

I had dropped out of this group, because I could never remember to post on the right dates, and was on hiatus for a while– but so many of my blog-friends are on it, I have always read the IWSG posts.

The premise of the group is simple– we writers can be an insecure bunch, we need all the support we can get and who best to support us than our fellow-writers?

The avowed purpose is:

To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

I’ve signed on again, and have scheduled drafts for the rest of 2015, so I don’t forget. If you’re a writer, I strongly encourage you to join this group, as well as their Facebook page.

You’ll find all kinds of advice ( they even have a free book of excellent advice), commiseration, encouragement, and you’ll make some excellent friends! Alex, the founder of this group, has been a good blogging friend for years– and being the Ninja Cap’n, he knows a ton about writing, blogging, bloggers who write, and writers who blog.

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Not a writer, but know someone who is? Are they insecure about their writing? If you’re a writer, do you feel the need for a safe place to vent, recuperate, seek advice? Are you part of the  Insecure Writers’ Support Group? If yes, what has been your best experience about this group and why would you recommend it? (I really would like to hear from those whom Insecure Writers’ Support Group has helped over the years!

In the spirit of bonding with writers, here’s another event you could take part in: involves posting an excerpt from your work, or from a book you’ve read: the Spectacular Settings Challenge.

If you haven’t yet joined the Damyanti at Daily write Facebook page, please do. Hope to see you there to join in the fun!

Ever take Cues from Your Subconscious?


Hakone Open Air Museum

The Subconscious and You

My best writing comes to me when I’m not planning it.

The other times, I’m working at the craft, practicing my scales so that when the music happens I’m there to witness and record it as best as I can. Sometimes I don’t do well at the first attempt and my subconscious keeps throwing it at me till I get it right. A lot of my writing is built around similar themes– don’t quite know what they are yet, only that when the raw inner voice comes out and plays, my stories seem preoccupied with similar things.

It is as if I’m the chimpanzee being taught a puzzle in a lab. The humans at the other end are trying to stretch my capabilities, and measuring them, while at it.

This is easy to make peace with when I’m writing flash fiction. I’m reasonably confident these days of churning out five to six a week. Two or three of those might even be good.

Trouble appears when I write a longer piece– it is as if I’m a novice singer, running out of breath when belting out an aria. Some of them begin well, then falter, and take a dozen drafts to catch the high notes I want to hit, or rumble into those base notes I don’t want to lose.

Between passes at that story, days or weeks or months might pass, and there I am again, and the story might just hold together without crashing — like a house of multicolored cards held up in air just so. You see the masters doing it all the time, juggling so many cards in air and making such brilliant villas, mansions, palaces. It’s magic. I’m happy when I can hold together the bare bones of a hut, just so long as it stays in air, without bleeding color or losing balance.

The novel. The novel is a different beast– with it I feel like a dog in front of a mirror. I don’t know what I see, only that I see it. And I’m yet to see a dog juggle.

So many mixed metaphors in this post– but it reflects exactly how I feel these days trying to enter into my novel to begin on the third draft. This palace might crumble before it stands up– but at least I’m learning the art of juggling the bricks to keep the damn building floating in air. And it looks like I’m not alone– other writers compare writing to juggling as well:

“I always imagine it like a whole load of plates spinning, and you’ve got the plan, the research and the plot, and you’ve got to kind of keep them spinning and constantly moving between one and the other.”

The complete article about writing and the subconscious, here.

Who knows, maybe I’m meant only to write at shorter lengths. Not that that is easier to do (well).

I have to discover whether I’m meant for longer stories. The real bitch of it? The only road to discovery lies in writing at greater length.

What about you? What role does the subconscious play in your life, as a writer, reader, artist, gardener, mason, engineer, or whatever it is that you do? Do you ever take cues from your subconscious?

 

Do you walk in Beauty?


Do you walk in Beauty?

Blooming in Beauty

Life is fleeting. Before I know it a day, a week, a month, a year: whoosh, gone.

In theory, I understand that if I’m mindful, let each moment live itself, and my self live that moment, time would expand. Because what is time after all– it’s a concept, it’s a function of motion, it’s the ticking clock in our bodies.

When I read Byron in school, can’t say I liked him much– I found his writing pansy, unreal, and puked in my mouth a little at passages like these from She walks in Beauty:

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

What crap, I used to think, idealizing and infantalizing a woman, making of her something less than flesh-and-blood. A part of me still agrees. But as days slip through my finger like the finest sand, I wonder if some of it isn’t what I want to be: soft, calm, spend my days in goodness (as much as possible- the cynic in me says!) with a mind at peace, and a heart filled with innocent love.

Softness, calmness, peace, innocence, love (compassion) all come with mindful practice, with awareness of each moment, with forgiving oneself for each moment of violence and cynicism (in thought, and in action.) Man, woman, child– the most important thing is that tranquil space inside the mind, the silence and slow-soft rhythm of breath, a rhythm that flows and beats through all of us, human, animal, plant, rock, river, planet.

For the past year or so, been trying (unsuccessfully) to remain aware of that rhythm at all times. The body is most in harmony with it when writing fiction, when in sympathy, empathy and identification with someone ‘other’, a being of my imagination, so the ‘I’ floats away, and becomes a gentle drumbeat.

That’s what has drawn my body and soul into writing fiction, this practice that feels almost like meditation. Compared to this, the ‘thrill’ of acceptance or publication is short-lived, mundane. On some days, reading a good line by another author makes everything else seem trivial.

What about you? Does fiction take you outside of you? Does it bring you harmony and rhythm? Do you walk in Beauty?

Do You Believe in What ifs?


Its been a month since I posted here. Like I said on Amlokiblogs some time back, I’m in a different world these days, which is spinning parallel to yours.  Fiction takes up most of my mind-space, so I have very little left over for life, online and off. But I do revert to my blog every once in a while, because I miss you guys, or as in this case, because I want to send a shout-out to a dear friend.

Today’s shoutout goes to Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Amazon bestselling Ninja Cap’n, who’s busy with the A to Z Challenge these days.

He’s here today to talk about What if’s, and his new book: Dragon of the Stars. Take it away, Alex!

Dragon of the Stars by Alex J Cavanaugh

Dragon of the Stars by Alex J Cavanaugh

As writers, we’re always on the lookout for our next story idea. We become master observers of people and situations. We’ll jot down notes and start storylines that may or may not go anywhere.

Sometimes we have a spark, but it just doesn’t seem to take. Or maybe it doesn’t go in a direction that’s exciting. We’re bummed and tempted to shelve the idea.

Maybe what we need is to explore that idea from a new angle. Flip it around and turn it into something different. That might be just thing to ignite interest again.

What are some ways we can shift the pieces of the puzzle around?

  • Reverse the roles. Take the main characters are reverse their position in the storyline.
  • Change the time period.  Shift the story forward or backward.
  • Change the setting. Urban instead of rural, small city instead of big, desert instead of mountains, etc.
  • Try a different country.  Would it be more exciting set in a different culture?
  • How about a different or additional genre? A mystery in space? A historical paranormal?
  • Go for the worst case scenario. Part of the story isn’t very exciting? Ramp it up – what is the worst thing that could happen?
  • Brainstorm with other writers. Sometimes sharing the idea with those we trust will lead to a revelation.
  • Brainstorm on our own. Throw everything out there, including the kitchen sink. No rules, no restrictions–just go nuts!

Any of those changes can make all the difference in the world. My latest book, Dragon of the Stars, came from a song and a little ‘What If?’ Ayreon’s Dragon on the Sea was about Queen Elizabeth I sending Sir Francis Drake to fight the Spanish Armada. The dragon in the song refers to Drake, but I wondered–what if the dragon was the ship? What if it was a spaceship instead? What if the Queen sent a Nobleman to find that ship? From that point, the story unfolded quickly, with the ending coming from a rather twisted ‘What if?’.

So, if a story needs a little something, try ‘What if?’

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Alex J. Cavanaugh works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. He is also the guitarist in a Christian band. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm. His latest book, Dragon of the Stars, came out April 7, 2015. Purchase it on AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboChaptersAmazon UKGoodreadsiTunesAmazon PrintOverdrive.  Find Alex here, and on Twitter.

Who else has had a story unfold with a little help from ‘What if?’ What have you been doing this March and April? Taking part in the A to Z Challenge? Have you bought Dragon of the Stars yet?

Do you Own Your Memories? #writing


Damyanti:

Writing about family. Always a dangerous topic. Someone, I don’t remember who, said that writers should write like orphans, like they have no family– that the family they belong to isn’t theirs.

I’ve written about my family, once or twice, and the reaction of those who read it has been, “But that’s not what happened! She’s twisted it up! How dare she?”

What they don’t realize is writing is its own truth– each story has its truth, and it has no relationship to facts, and what are facts, after all. Things happen, and depending on who saw them happen, you have different perspectives.

History is littered with perspectives, mostly those of the winners. I write sometimes from the loser’s perspective, from the point of view of ‘wrong’ (what’s right or wrong, anyway? who decides what’s right?).

I read this post today, and I’m reblogging it because it gives a perspective different from mine — You own everything that happened to you.

To me, I own nothing, from the clothes on my back to the stories I write– one day all of this would be ashes and dust, and not even a memory of me would remain.

What do you think? Do You own your memories? Do you write about your family? Would you be hurt if your family members wrote about you?

Following on Social media

Do You look Back?

Originally posted on Adventures in Juggling:

Working this week on me being the sole proprietor of my thoughts, my memories, my words, my opinions with my therapist has been hard. A lifetime of being told these are not mine, not real, not true, not worthy of being shared takes it toll. It’s one of the reason why I stopped writing decades ago, much to the disappointment of a high school writing teacher who just recently reconnected via Facebook upon discovering that after high school I stopped writing altogether. I did stop, until I started blogging more than ten years ago. First in secret. Then with a faceless audience who seemed to like the words and thoughts I put out there. Then it grew and grew as did the audience some who know me very well and some who like to imagine that they know me even better than I know me and now, well sometimes it’s…

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What can you #write in Ten #Sentences ? #heywriters


I’ve been botching up taking an open online creative writing course from Iowa Writer’s workshop. It is in its last week, and after doing the first two classes, I mostly missed out on all the others. I traveled, worked on stuff at home, basically did anything but write.

I’ve missed the deadline for the writing assignment in the last class, so I thought I would make a fool of myself by doing it here, in public. Here’s the assignment:

Write a scene of ten sentences and include in each sentence a numeral. If you’ve reached ten sentences and you’d like to keep going, you can make this a scene of twenty sentences, or thirty — the idea is just to write within this pattern. Example: On the day my town flooded, I was ten years old. It was four o’clock in the morning. In the darkness, right before I heard the water coming, two roosters crowed.

Boy soldiers in Syria

A Boy Soldier: Copyright Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via the Guardian

And here’s my attempt:

Shut your mouth or I’ll kill you, he’d said, on day one at the camp, the day they brought his brother in. After a month, when opening his schoolbag, I found three packets of white powder, larger than the packs salt came in, but much smaller than the packs of sugar.

I found these in your bag, I said to him two days later, when I felt able to look him square in his bloodshot eyes.

He snatched them from my hand, slammed them on the table, and banged it with his stringy hands: You listen to me, woman, he said, though his thirteen-year-old body wasn’t yet as tall as mine, You listen to me good. I’m tired of eating your kabsa and your kushary, and I’m tired of Abba’s begging for rations– give me one month, and I’ll sort this all out.

You listen to me, son, I said, making the tremble in my voice a scream of anger, not fear, as my mind whispered the ninety-nine names of Allah.

I ignored the bulge in his pockets, tried not to think of the steel they hid, the two spitfires that made his voice so loud, and the new masked bosses who had given them to him.

 

Now there he lies, six months later, one dead body minus its head, the two spitfires on his chest, folded in prayer.

Shut your mouth, I tell the Mullah at the funeral, He may be the One and Only, but He has taken a mother’s sons from her.

They’ll kill me soon, maybe in twelve hours when night falls, but I’ll use each of those hours, each minute, taking my boys’ names, and I won’t take their names in vain.

So that was some fiction on my blog, the first time in six months, I think.

Have you ever taken an online creative writing course from Iowa? Have ever written exercises with constraints in mind? Did the constraints of my assignment overwhelm the piece above? Would you like to do a similar 10-line writing exercise (fiction/ nonfiction) and post it on your blog?