Setting the Scene

Posted on Posted in Creative Process, Writing Process

What’s In This Closet?
by Guest Blogger Linda White

One of the best ways to set a scene is to walk through the main character’s closet. Talk about the tuxedo, praise the paisley, or mention the mink coat in your piece. Chances are the second your reader sees the words “worn coveralls” she’s going to visualize a specific type of individual, a poor farmer, or someone who lives in the mountains or on a ranch. If her eyes scan the phrase “identical sequined gowns glittering in the spotlight as they shimmied across the stage” she’ll think of entertainers.  Check out these examples:

Example #1

Little brothers were an enormous pain in the butt. She never wanted one, and was horrified and disappointed seven years ago when her mom and stepdad cheerfully told her that the new baby was a boy. She’d spent nine delightful years as a pampered only child, but had welcomed the notion of a baby sister. Instead she got the terror in parachute pants who teased her regularly and called her “Godzilla.” After chasing the crumb-snatcher from her room she closed the door, and pulled on her favorite neon pink legwarmers and an oversized sweater. Incomplete college applications multiplied on her desk, but her immediate obsession was that fine new boy in school with the fresh Jheri curl and the baby blue Members Only jacket.

Example #2

Seven A.M. – each new day, same old routine. I dressed carefully in a crisp white blouse, navy blue plaid pleated skirt, red cross-over tie, navy blue knee socks, and black and white saddle shoes. After a quick breakfast, I grabbed my navy blue blazer with the school insignia embroidered on the breast pocket and dashed out. My friends waited for me at the bus stop for a gossip-filled half-hour ride to school. We were careful not to scuff our freshly-polished shoes before we got there.

These examples should give you a feel for the character’s approximate age and place. Digging through a character’s closet is a great way to recharge your writing, and you can easily build your story around the tidbits of information you find.

Don’t just type the words—paint the picture!

Linda White lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with a stack of notebooks that are stuffed with ideas for stories and essays. Her style blog “You Gorgeous Creature!” www.yougorgeouscreature.blogspot.com, has been active since 2009, and she recently completed a novella, “Crimes of Fashion Models.” She began writing in 2005 after a stint as a receptionist at an advertising agency. Music, food, and fashion are her main motivators.

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Setting the Scene

  1. Christine: That Linda White is good! Too bad she is into styling & clothing. If she were into railroading & transportation would make an excellent candidate for transportation editor at a major newspaper. Most of the ones we have had in many moons have not known their you know what from their elbow! Shall we send her to the Trolley Museum for training? Or at the least she should visit Strasburg RR and the PennsyState RR museum across the street! I can dream can’t I? Cousin Junior

    1. Thanks, Cousin! For the record, I love trains and my Dad worked for The Budd Company for decades. He helped build many trolleys and buses. He also had a fabulous sense of style!

      Thanks for reading!

      Linda

  2. Linda, this is a wonderful and thought-provoking alternative to the dreaded, cliched “character looking in the mirror” to describe not only a character’s physical appearance, but lot about their age, social standing, & personality.
    Thanks, Linda & Christine, for sharing this informative post!

    1. Thanks, Frances. This harkens back to Mom’s words, “People judge you first by your appearance.” Just as your look makes an indelible impression, a character’s personality, disposition, and lifestyle are often determined by whether the sweater is cashmere or polyester!

      Thanks for reading!

      Linda

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