Monday, September 7, 2015

Setting and Mood: How a Writer Takes a Vacation

It's Labor Day and I've had a busy weekend with a family wedding and then working a wine festival so today's Back Deck Blog is a reprint from September 15, 2014. Hope you enjoyed your weekend as well!

Labor Day weekend Paul and I were lucky enough to be able to take a couple days off to get away from our neck of the woods to visit his sister, a Carmelite nun in Santa Fe, and visit the Santuario de Chimayo, a well-known shrine in northern New Mexico. In addition to recharging our spiritual batteries (always a necessity a few times a year), I was also able to recharge my creative batteries.

One of the things that a writer must do in order to draw the reader in, besides create interesting characters, is to be able to create a setting, a world if you will, where these characters will live and breathe and move... in short, where the story will take place. Often I've read a story or novel where I find myself feeling lost and disoriented. The characters appear to be floating in space, talking heads. Where are they? Are they inside or out? Is it summer or winter, warm or cold? A big city or small town? In a familiar place or a strange place?

Being able to describe the setting in a way that doesn't intrude on the story helps create a mood for the story as well. A foggy, cold evening sets a different mood than a bright, clear morning, and either of those can convey a different feeling based on whether it's on a crowded city street or a deserted city street. Depending on what the writer wants to convey to the reader, the mood can foreshadow the events to come or set up a surprise.

Paul and I did a lot of walking in Santa Fe and Chimayo at different hours of the day and evening. A few pictures, a few notes, and a lot of observation helped me refill my "tank" of setting and mood, even though my stories are set in a completely different area of New Mexico. It's always a good thing for a writer to get away from the familiar and explore the unusual and use it to see things in a different way.

Plus, you can always use the excuse that you were "working" while you were checking out that interesting little café with the flamenco musicians (darn, I seemed to have left my camera and notebook in the car....)

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