Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Focusing on a Setting Detail

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

IMG_20120318_174225On Sunday, my daughter and I took advantage of the nice weather and went for a walk at the park.

It was like a hundred other walks at the park that we’ve taken over the years. Sunny and warm. There were lots of people and dogs walking. The birds were chirping loudly, since it’s a protected habitat there. And my daughter wanted to play Poohsticks on the bridge for the eleventy-bazillionth time.

It was all very peaceful…and unremarkable. My daughter and I stood on the small bridge and waited to see which of the two sticks she threw into the fast-moving creek would come out quicker on the other side.

Then I saw him. A Mr. No-Shoulders, as my mother would call him. A snake, sunning himself on a rock.

Now, snakes in the Southern US are not remarkable. They’re everywhere. And this winter they really didn’t hibernate since it never really got cold. There are probably a ton of sleep-deprived, grumpy snakes around North Carolina right now.

But snakes usually wisely avoid Southerners. They don’t want to see us and we don’t particularly want to see them.

And this snake was watching my daughter and me closely, suspiciously. It was pretty in the sun, actually. Until it quickly leaped into the water to get away from us.

We continued on our walk…until we saw another snake sunning itself. I took a picture of one of the snakes (above) and didn’t have a chance to ask my Scout son or outdoorsy husband what type it was. Water moccasin? Cottonmouth? Copperhead? Who knows?

I’m never a fan of writing setting. It’s the kind of stuff that I skip over as a reader---unless there’s a remarkable detail that makes me interested. If a snake intrudes on a normal, everyday walk at the park, I’m more interested. If the setting is atmospheric, if I feel the setting is setting a mood, if the setting is viewed through the eyes of a character and gives me more character insight….then I don’t skip it.

How about you? How do you set apart your settings to make them pop and tie them into the story or indicate something interesting about your characters? Do you enjoy reading and writing setting?