Setting not only gives the reader a sense of a character’s physical world, but also provides access to the emotional undercurrents of the story. This is because defining place is not simply writing down descriptions of mountains or seacoasts, trees, sky, horizons. The language the writer chooses is important for establishing the mood of the piece. A description of place can be gloomy or buoyant or detached or luscious. Each of these adjectives describes a mood which the reader internalizes as the story goes along. (This is called the objective correlative.)
This week, dear writers, try writing a paragraph in which you start with one sentence about your character, transition into a passage that establishes setting, and then transition back to your character in the last sentence. The objective is to establish tone/mood through the setting, helping the reader to better see the character and understand the situation s/he is in.
Elaine knew that this time her mother’s illness was not hypochondria. She walked toward the river and along the path where melting snow provided the best, the cleanest, walking. The bare branches were alive with birds whose songs were crisper now without the muffling leaves of midsummer or the chilling silence of winter. The vireo, the wrens, the brazen blue jays all appeared like bright vocal ornaments on the sharp-edged branches. Last week’s ice was gone from the river and it moved in its quickened spring pace, dark with spring runoff but still lustrous under the April sun. Ferns were breaking though the crusted layers of last year’s fallen leaves, like green fingers curled into fists and just starting to open as if in a handshake to he warm sun. Elaine knew this spring was going to be cruel, that for her it was going to be a season of unwanted beginnings.
~ Jim Heynen
For even more inspiration, check out this lovely piece
from our very own Opal.