At this point, you may have pieces of a story emerging from the exercises you completed around character and dialogue. Now your task is to begin stitching your pieces together. Your characters move and speak within a specific context, what you may think of as setting. Eliciting that setting through specific detail will locate your story in your reader's consciousness. We also will discuss perspective in this chapter, the point of view from which the narrative is told.
This chapter will discuss setting and perspective in the context of several classic short stories provided in Appendix A: Sample Narratives from Famous Authors. Please read these stories before continuing this chapter.
We often think of a story's setting like a stage play's setting—basically, the props. But a story's setting is not limited to the furniture in a living room or a landscape. Setting involves mood and ambiance, which are elicited, as I mentioned, by physical details. Note the varied details that James Joyce provides in the opening paragraphs of "Araby." We have an immediate impression of North Richmond Street and the kind of houses that occupy it. We also have a visceral sense of the narrator's house. The striking detail of the priest's death lends a heaviness to the house's "musty" air. Joyce creates a mood with these details. The twilight play of the boys and the darkening evening suggest the troubling feelings at which this coming of age story arrives.
Put one of your characters in a physical setting that he or she knows well. Alternatively, consider yourself in a settingyow know well. Using a specific name (for a street, or a beach, or a stretch of highway), put your character in that place at a particular time of day. Identify the season; consider smells and other sensations. Use the kind of sensual detail we explored earlier in the book. Write an introduction that mimics the opening of "Araby."
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