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Your Sixth Writing Prompt

Lesson 80 Chapter 7 Module 7

We’re now pretty much in the thick of the storytelling and narrative sections of the course. Those terms that we hear all the time (characters, setting, theme, etc), but aren’t sure how to apply them to our writing—or “do them well.”

The past week of lessons has focused on Setting and Surroundings, and how they affect not only a story, but the characters within the story.

Many of you may have learned about setting as a synonym of scene, which covers mostly the aesthetics and physical features of the place the story takes place in.

Similar to what we learned about characters last week, though, we now know that the setting is much more than the colour of the couch and the way the moonlight hits the shards of glass.

Even the phrase “setting something up” implies more than that.

When we are focused on the setting, we are providing the backstory and information and tone and general feeling for the reader.

What do they need to know before we jump into the action?

How do you want them to feel about certain characters or situations or concepts?

What is the scenery around them?

Similar to those demographics on characters, while we don’t want to focus on the details of a place, we do want to make sure that the reader feels like they are right there in the thick of things.

This applies to fiction writing and nonfiction writing.

At the beginning of an article or essay, you want to spend the introduction doing this as well—of course you want to do it in a way that hooks in the reader and baits their curiosity enough to make them scroll down or flip the page.

Like we learned in Week 4, knowing how much to drip out, and when to drip it.

To be honest, a lot that happens more in edits and revisions than it does in the original writing (you throw everything onto the page in a rough draft, you move it down or somewhere else when you are able to step back and see the piece as a whole.)

One of the most common things I see happen with writers in their setting is actually holding too much back for too long though.

Another part of setting is making sure that you don’t assume that the reader knows what you know.

You are the one who read 17 books about Colorado in 1863 to research your novel on the Wild West. You are the one who spends hours a day focused on your business and processes. You are the one who has thought for the past three weeks about how this one theory impacts an avatar or society (if you have quite lofty ambitions for your writing’s impact.)

So while it might seem like common knowledge at this point for you, it isn’t for everyone reading.

This is one of the things you want to ask your editor or writing partners (or beta readers, if you are working on a larger project) to keep an eye out for. Places where they got lost or needed more information that you didn’t provide.

Or, as I tend to see it happen with clients, the information and understanding was provided long after the reader had to know it.

Finally, with the setting, we want to think about how it affects the main characters and concepts.

Does the atmosphere or culture make your characters act a certain way?

Does the environment the test was conducted in affect the outcome and results?

Do the surroundings mean that only certain situations can unfold, and how might someone or something operate outside those parameters?

Your Sixth Writing Prompt

Stop to think about 12 different settings and surrounding in your projects, writing, business, or brand.

If you are writing fiction, consider where your different scenes are taking place. What the backstory and world was like before we dropped into this moment.

If you are writing non-fiction (especially for your business and brand), consider the surroundings for your organization, your products and services, mascots or internal avatars, and situations that are unique to your industry or niche.

Write out a quick bullet list, with a brief description for each.

Consider some of their demographics. What does this look like? What things needed to happen to get us to this exact point? How can the reader replicate or insert themselves into this moment and situation? What kind of effect does the setting have on others? What kind of effect do others have on the surrounding? How does the setting fit into your overall story? What purpose does it serve?

After, shift gears a bit. Do a deeper dive into either the first or most important setting your reader needs to know about. How is it interpreted through the senses? How does it, and the information revealed by knowing it, affect the rest of the story? Take some time to stop and drop yourself right into that exact moment, to share everything that you experience.

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