December 14, 2010

Those Odd Little Details

Back in June, I posted about making a memorable setting. It's one of my favorite posts (remind me to add it to the must-read list). I was thinking about setting last night. (My muse likes to be active at night while I'm trying to sleep. Maybe it's because I'm too tired to fight against her.) Setting is a crucial part of my WIP and I was thinking about details I could add to make my setting more vivid.

One thing I learned while revising my last novel is that in order to have a good setting, you only need two or three things. They just have to be good. And by good, I mean out of the ordinary. Something you wouldn't expect to be there.

For example, in the Philippines, one could describe it as hot, with a lot of trees, and either very wet (during the rainy season) or very dry (and smelly. Sorry, it's true.) during the dry season. Does that help you see much in your mind's eye? Probably not.

But what if I told you that there are little pink walls just standing there off the road like bus stations? (They're to pee against. I'm not kidding.) Or that their mayonnaise is sweet? Their ketchup is made from bananas. And when you eat at McDonald's in the Philippines, there is someone there to bus your table (and he could get in trouble if you take your own tray to the trash).

See? A lot more specific. Things you wouldn't expect.

This past spring, I traveled through different states. One thing I noticed is how green it is around the Smoky Mountains. I mean, a LOT of trees. Now, where I live, it's very green. Tons and tons of trees, canopy roads, and very little open sky. But there was a difference. Here, it's mostly oak and pine. But in the mountains, every tree was different. I couldn't identify them, but each tree had different leaves, were a different shade of green, and added complexity to the scene. It was beautiful.

So what are some odd little details you've noticed? About where you live? About places you've visited?


Kari Marie said...

This is a wonderful post! Thank you for giving me food for thought today.

Unknown said...

You're welcome. I'm glad my musings are interesting to people not half-asleep. :)

Rabia said...

Oh, I like this.

It's been a long long time since I lived near the sea, so whenever I do find myself on the beach I notice all these details--the tug of the tide around my ankles, the smell of brine and fish, the silky feel of sand and the gritty feel of crushed seashells, seaweed knotting itself in my feet.

I grew up in a city in Pakistan and one of the first things I would notice after time away from the country was how humid it was. I'd step out of the airport and I could almost cut the air with a knife. The next thing I'd notice was how thin car doors are compared to here in the States. Took me a few days to stop banging the doors hard enough to make the entire vehicle shake. :D

Unknown said...

Ooh, that's a good one!

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