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“Come in and sit for a spell.” Old Mrs. Haverty beckoned me toward her. She looked more the type to cast a spell, but my tired feet accepted the invitation.
“Thank you kindly.” I noted the absence of a door, but didn’t want to be rude and point it out. I lowered myself—and landed on my backside. “Ow.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Mrs. Haverty covered her mouth with a withered hand, fingernails tipped in cotton candy pink. She spoke in hushed tones for my ears only. “I think the writer forgot to give me a chair.”
“That’s not all.” I rubbed my sore tailbone and glared at the lack of surroundings. I’d been so caught up in meeting the old woman— “Where are we anyway?”
“I don’t know.” Her already wrinkled brow scrunched together like a squeezed accordion. “Don’t you know?”
“No one tells me these things.” An idea had me inhaling a sharp breath. I’d heard whispers of it, but never thought I’d see it myself. “Maybe this is the Nothing?”
Mrs. Haverty swept her hand out at the emptiness around us. “Well of course it’s nothing.”
“No, I mean—the movie? About the stories, and the wolf, and—you know what? Never mind.” I dragged a hand over my hair. “I don’t suppose you have coffee?”
“Dearie, I’d love some, but now that you mention it, I don’t think I even have a kitchen.”
I sighed. “There’s always edits.”
So, yeah. Setting. In case you’re wondering, I think it’s pretty darned important. And I say that with a straight face, knowing full well I suck out loud at writing setting. At least in the first draft. I am the writer who forgets to give characters chairs and kitchens, who neglects to fill in the empty worlds I create with color, scent, texture, form, name—in other words, life.
Who would Darcy be without Pemberley? What adventures would await the Pevensies without Narnia? How would the Hobbits find the strength to go on without the promise of a return home to the Shire? And where would 90 percent of Stephen King’s characters be without Maine (dodgy place, Maine) to fuel another nightmare-riddled thriller?
Stories don’t happen in the Nothing, much as our jobs would be easier if they did. In my first drafts, I focus so much on the action and dialogue, I emerge from the writing haze to discover my entire tale takes place in a sort of featureless ether. I tend to forget that all my writerly brilliance needs a home, be it a house, a big city, or a distant galaxy. Thank goodness for edits and beta readers politely clearing their throats (or commenting a ridiculous number of times along the margins until I get the point).
Take time to give the worlds surrounding your characters life. Setting adds depth to any tale, and done well, earns a place in the memories of your readers. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right in the first draft, though… there’s always edits.
Cara Michaels is a dreamer of legendary proportions (just ask her about the alien pirate spaceship invasion). Her imagination is her playground and nothing is quite so much fun for her as building new characters and new worlds with at least an edge of the fantastic. She’s writing whenever the opportunity presents itself and can typically be found tinkering with half a dozen projects. Occasionally all at once.
Cara is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and has multiple shorts and novels in the works.
A flash fiction addict, Cara hosts the #MenageMonday challenge on her blog, Defiantly Literate.
Save the Day. Get the Guy.
Heroic Science Fiction & Paranormal Fantasy
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