Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wal-Mart: the Enemy of Setting

We all know by now, or at least you should if you are a fiction writer, that setting is a character; that place should live, breathe, and move just as your characters do.  I can't tell you how many boring, static descriptions of places I've read in the first few pages that literally lulled me to sleep.  But aside from being static and lifeless, I'm finding many settings in fiction to be indistinguishable in their sameness.  And what do we expect?  With a Wal-Mart in every town, McDonald's and Starbucks peppering every corner, what is left to distinguish one place from another?

With emphasis on corporations, chains, and globalization, I think our culture is slowly moving away from the importance of place, and what makes place unique.  What ever happened to all the dives, greasy-spoons, and local haunts that make a place memorable?  They have all seemingly been replaced by generic, cookie-cutter restaurants and hang-outs.  And when was the last time we all stopped and truly took in our surroundings, categorizing each element of the place we call home? 

 If you are writing a story set in the desert, I want to feel the relentless sun, the dryness on my skin, see the southwestern style stuccoed houses, etc.  If you're writing about the south, I want to pass by the huge plantation houses, smell the magnolias, and sip sweet tea on the porch with your characters. 

I think Faulkner is an excellent example of an author that gave us memorable settings; places we could feel and smell, see and hold in our thoughts, as if we were really there.  In his novel, A Rose For Emily, he doesn't just describe the house where Emily lives as a bland, typical house somewhere in the south.  He artfully paints us a picture of a crumbling Mississippi town in the post-civil war south:

"It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street. But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps--an eyesore among eyesores."

 I suppose my point in all of this anti-Wal-Mart nonsense is simply to stress the importance of place in the world of fiction.  We are all products of place, and the characters in our novels should be no different.  Whether it be a fictional setting or a real one, make it memorable and alive and it will help bring your characters to life as well.  Be selective in your description, though.  It's quality, not quantity, we're after.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Chapbooks, Collections, and Poems... Oh my!

Lately I've been pondering the idea of submitting a collection of poetry for publication, because let's face it: I clearly do not have enough going on and what's another writing project, right?  But seriously, I have wanted to publish a chapbook since I was about sixteen years old, I just didn't know how to go about it.  I still don't, really, but I'd like to think I'm closer than I was all those years ago. 

Anyway, I have been revising and gathering some of my favorites that seem to coalesce well enough.  I am an avid fan of the Poetic Asides Blog on the Writers' Digest site and frequent it more times than I'd like to admit.  I was checking a new post the other day and saw one of the editors has begun a series titled, "Assembling and Submitting a Poetry Collection"- what are the odds?  He has found a publisher for his collection of poetry and has decided to share his experience with the world.  I highly recommend checking it out if you are in the market for some poetry publishing advice.

All these publication ponderings have me itching to share my writing with the world, so I decided I'll share a few pieces of my own on the blog in hopes that it will ease the super scary transition to submitting a complete work of fiction or poetry.  So read, comment, or just pass right on through...

This is a series of senryu I wrote while sitting in the waiting room of a hospital:

I wait in the room
where waiting is implied;
a tissue-laden limbo

Intensive care;
vulnerability that
opens at the back

Reconciled beneath
the many wires and machines,
lies his spirit, marred.
                      Amy Glamos

Thursday, July 18, 2013

RTW: Tardy As Usual...

Hello strangers.  I swear this book is sucking the life right out of me, but from what I hear, that is a good thing.  I'm sufficiently invested.  Anyway, my tardiness is showing again but I felt compelled to participate in yesterday's Road Trip Wednesday question, seeing as it's a phenomenal one.

YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday question of the week:

What song would you love to see a book based on?

I actually spent a lot of time thinking this one over, and though I tried really hard to distance the question from my own WIP, sadly I just couldn't.  I am so immersed in the story I can't seem to direct my creative kool-aid down another avenue.  So, after much hair pulling and frustrated groaning, I came up with one of the songs that has been a significant influence in my own WIP.

I am sure most of you out there are familiar with Florence and the Machine.  I find their music to be very helpful while I'm writing and I listen to it often.  Every one of their songs has a super epic feel to it and I guess that helps me write.  The song that I've played so many times my kids are humming it around the house is "No Light, No Light".  It encompasses a lot of what my characters are going through and seems to summarize the overall tone of my story pretty well.  I don't want to give too much away because I'm an anxious ball of nerves when it comes to discussing the premise of my book, but I wanted to share the song that has fueled much of the story for me.

Here's the song, in case you aren't familiar with it:

(I chose not to provide the music video for this song, which depicts gyrating men, choir boys, voodoo, and other wacky things that seem to be very typical of a Florence and the Machine video, because unfortunately I have none of these things going on in my story.  The lyrics are the focus here.  Maybe in the next book, I'll include some of this to liven it up a bit...)

And now the hermit is telling me it's time to crawl back into the writing cave.  It sure was nice to see you, sunshine.  Does anyone else have a particular artist or song that either fuels their writing or should be made into a book?