Viewers generally need the details of a concrete setting in order to enter the story
Engaging all the senses is an important part of creating a setting. In addition to the visual impact of the setting, one must also consider the other senses. What can be overheard? What does the setting smell like? Is it hot, cold, or drafty? Does the water taste funny? The more senses you engage, the more real the setting becomes, and the more the reader can be drawn into the story.
How much do you really know about your hometown?
It is easier to create a setting if you are familiar with the setting. I’m setting a ghost story in an old farmhouse, something that is easy for me because I live in an old farmhouse. I know about the types of quirks old farmhouses have, and the typical layout of a barn. I’ve also set stories in amusement parks. I spend a couple years working behind the scenes at Disneyland and can draw from that experience. It would be vastly more difficult for me to set a story on a houseboat, as I’ve never really experienced one. In all likelihood, someone who has experienced one would be drawn out of the story by errors in my descriptions.
Characters can be presented in varying detail or depths. When little detail is provided, the character is superficial or two-dimensional – flat.
It can be frustrating trying to read characters that are flat, as well as characters that exist as blanks for the readers to project themselves upon. Characters that exist primarily as strawmen, or whose natures are not understood by the writer can be particularly frustrating to read. In Twilight, the characters have little personality of their own, and exist purely as the fantasies of an insecure woman who never grew beyond the insecure high school girl. There is no depth to them because they are idealized perfection solely from the point of view of the writer. She projects herself into them, and expects others to project themselves as well. This means that readers who cannot imagine themselves reacting as the characters do to the situations the characters find themselves in will find the books unappealing. The characters have no lives of their own, and thus the readers can’t identify with the characters. They must identify the characters with themselves, and since they know they’d never behave in such a fashion, they cannot.
Dialogue can often be most revealing by what is not said
Ah, the wonder of detection fiction.
‘Did you know Jim was dead?’
‘I didn’t shoot him!’
‘Who says he was shot?’
I’ve had fun with the occasional character that tells the truth in a way that is deceptive. The words are literally true, but information is left out that changes the meaning of the words, or the truth is told in such a way as to render it unbelievable. The best way to do this is to never answer a yes or no question with a yes or no. I used to pull this on my mother all the time.
‘Did you leave this out?’
‘What makes you think it was me?’
Often, she’d take that for a no. Or better yet, she’d explain why she thought it was me, allowing me to figure out what evidence she had on a given matter so that I knew exactly how much to tell her to prevent her from finding out what else I’d been up too. Never good to confess to something they don’t know about yet.
A rather common misconception about writing fiction is that an interesting plot is the most important element of an effective story
There have been many times I’ve read a book or watched a movie and thought longingly of how someone with actual talent or creativity could have made something spectacular with that plotline.
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