Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Shake Up Your Story Settings

Most of the time I hear bands play in concert venues like sports arenas, outdoor amphitheaters, or grimy bars. Here's Arcade Fire playing last week at Utah Valley University:

I had a whole blog post planned about how the lead singer forgot the words, singing "something, something," until the crowd helped him along. Moral: people forgive your mistakes & even Grammy-winning rock bands blank out sometimes, so don't freak out when your own words don't come.

But alas I had two presentations to give at our regional SCBWI conference in Boise, Idaho on Saturday so I didn't get that post written. Saturday afternoon, I found myself listening to another band play at Boise State University:

Most people don't equate children's writing conferences with electric guitars, right? And who knew that picture book author Judy Cox could really rock that bass! Come to find out, she's been in a band for thirty years & plays regular gigs.

I never would've known about Judy's inner Guitar Goddess had we not switched up the setting. Take the rock band out of the club and plunk it into a writing conference. Not only did the silly songs make us laugh, but the whole show revealed character. (I have crazy creative SCBWI volunteers in Boise!)

Now think about your own writing. What would happen if you took that big argument between your MC and her parents out of the kitchen--and put it in her dad's office? A bowling alley? Outside church?

Too often we rely on the same old settings in our stories: school cafeteria, home, home, home, Biology class, home, cafeteria... Shake things up. Make lists of all the unique places in your character's town or fantasy world. Are your scenes happening in some of these places? Why not?

Putting your characters in unique and varied settings will allow you to reveal new things about your characters. Try it!

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