Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Tuesday Challenge - enriching the setting

I have an image in my mind from my trip. When I go to visit my step-mum I attend a water exercise class in her building. I went Friday morning and, as usual, I wasn't disappointed. The pool is surrounded in windows and there are plants inside and out. There are skylights and the November light hitting the water and the lovely women of an age provoked a transcendent moment in my heart. I so wished I had brought my camera so that I could share that - the way the light lay like honey-comb hexagons, the women's arms moving through the water, the looks on their faces as they tenderly took care of their bodies - the birds gathering on small bushes outside the windows, the custodian looking through the window and counting for maximum occupation rules, the conversation that trilled from the sublime to the bizarre, the laughter, the intention. And then there was the feelings in my own body - the water was so warm and delightful, the smell was not chlorine but some salty thing they use and there were spots where, if you stood there, you would feel a draft from the air exchange.
The Challenge today is for you to find a piece in your story that needs an enrichment of setting. Perhaps you have it all in your mind but you haven't quite gotten it across yet. Or perhaps you need to feel your way as to why you might have chosen a certain setting - a diner in a small town - the way the napkin holder is flanked by the ketchup bottle and the salt and pepper; the city garage where your protagonist is hiding from a murderer - the car with the dust and the words 'wash me' on it; the story-telling tipi with the light coming in making strange shadows on the canvas. Go into it in exquisite detail -see what your memory can conjure up or if possible, go find the location once again. This is not the time to hold back - over do it, you can draw it back later. Now is the time to make that setting as rich as possible - use all of your senses. Did you know that was the proper meaning of the word 'sensible'? It was. It didn't mean dry and pragmatic and logical - it meant acting from what your senses told you.
Write fat - get it all in and make sure you use all your senses and then you can edit thin and get just the right amount of setting in. Push it for exactly the correct words to evoke the image you first had in your mind.
I don't have pictures here yet - but I will later. Gwen's here and I must write!

Here are some pictures but you can also go over to my other blog - Living the Complicated Simple Life to see many more!


Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - What a terrific challenge! And I know just the place in my story, too. You're so right that sometimes a story's setting needs to be "fattened up."

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Was it a saline pool? I adore them, and they're hard to find.
Your description is gorgeous, not fat, at all, and I'll heed your advice.

GigglesandGuns said...

Good advice. The more senses you can portray the more involved the reader becomes. Doing it without being obvious is the trick.


H. L. Banks said...

I'm off to my WIP, love the challenge of this idea. Thanks.

Liza said...

Oh gosh. I was in that pool with you and it was amazing. I'm not kidding, you had me thinking that I need to consider a water exercise class.

Faith Pray said...

Technology is a funny thing. I rely heavily on TV replay buttons and the camera to Remember. I love the way you've captured essence and detail in such a beautiful way. I'm sure your photos would have been stunning, but the descriptive hit me just so. Thank you for the challenge. I'll do it. And maybe a little less technology and a little more brain while I'm at it.

Peter Sacco said...

Ideas can be changed and look foreword for new one.