Friday, September 2, 2011

Setting, too, Can Change in an Instant

My Internet came back on about thirty minutes ago, after being down for days. Our phone is back, too. We only lost power for two days. And the television no longer blips every ten seconds. We were lucky that's all we lost.

Not everyone else was.

I grew up in Cranford, NJ. In my latest WIP, the town is called Crestview, but as I wrote every scene, my writer's eye saw Cranford. So you know those writer's tricks? The ones where you're stumped, have a bit of writer's block, so you throw an unexpected event in there to shake up your writing -- shake up your characters? Hurricane Irene really shook up my setting.

I was in Cranford on Tuesday, helping dear friends who live near the river. Tuesday was a gorgeous day -- brilliant blue sky and low humidity. I drove in to town from the parkway. Everything looked as I had remembered it. Sure, there was a couch at the curb here and piled up carpet there, but everything looked fairly normal until you got near the river. Then, every street was fronted with furniture from driveway to driveway. The entire town smelled like mud.

I can't say I thought about my writing then. I didn't. I thought about my friends and their neighbors. But now, as I polish my manuscript and get it ready to send to my agent, I'm reminded how important setting is to every story. Seeing my setting shaken on its head made me want to get those little details right. Because sometimes the smallest detail tells an entire story.


  1. J.A.,
    Sorry to hear about the storm damage your friends encountered.

    I agree that sometimes the story is in the smallest detail. Keep thinking like that!


  2. So sorry to hear about this. Yes, it's SO true that one tiny, perfect detail can make your scene utterly real and believable for a reader.