Learning Setting

Outtakes 400

Learning Setting

By Cait Collins


I remember someone, obviously not a writer, say that journalists have an advantage when writing fiction, because they are used to writing.  Truth is writing for a news cast, a radio slot, or even a newspaper is the complete opposite of writing fiction.  For example I had to learn about settings.

Journalism is almost strictly Who, What, Where, When, Why.  You might have 30 seconds to tell the story. You don’t have time to talk about the sunny afternoon with the temperature in the eighties.  Its John Doe drove his car into a house on the corner of 45th and some street on Sunday at 2 P.M. because he was intoxicated.  The driver was taken to the hospital and released after treatment.  The police are investigating.

Fiction relies, to a certain extent, on details.  Think of Snoopy’s standard opening, “It was a dark and stormy night.”  This begins to set the scene.  There’s a storm.  John Doe opened the car door and stepped out into the ankle deep puddle.  It had been raining all day, and in the darkness, he hadn’t noticed the flooded driveway.  He shivered as the icy water soaked his shoes and jeans legs.  He fumed as he stomped toward the front door.  Wasn’t it bad enough that his girlfriend of twelve months had broken up with him?  Now he was soaked and freezing.  And what did she mean “he couldn’t commit?”

Now we have the setting.  So we just have to decide where we go next.

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