Today’s post comes to us from Christina Ledbetter. Today she offers some advice on writing about setting. In my own writing I’m struggling with this issue because I’m writing about settings to which I’ve never been. I hope that my readers will be forgiving, but I know they probably won’t be. I guess I’ll probably need to employ the services of a good content editor.
Writing Tip of the Day: Get Your Settings Right
In one of my writing classes in college, the professor instructed us to write a story using a local setting. Attending college in Atlanta, we all turned in stories set in our beloved Peach State. I wrote a bit about an Atlanta apartment complex that housed a interesting mix of college students and single moms on welfare. It’s an actual place in Atlanta, and the ethnic, socioeconomic and lifestyle contrast of the residents/characters proved rich with short story possibilities. My finished product ended up fragmented, condescending and without much point, but I enjoyed the assignment.
In class the next day we all critiqued each others’ stories, and in addition to the flaws mentioned above, one thoughtful classmate pointed out a mistake in my geography. I’d set my story a few years earlier, and in describing the setting mentioned the nearby Bank of America Building, a favorite Atlanta skyscraper. Too bad it wasn’t called that at the time in which my story took place, rather Nations Bank Building.
I had solid reasons for my story lacking plot and climax – I was trying to be deep. But mislabeling a landmark? No excuse there; I should have done my homework.
All this to say, enjoy your free writing tip today from the gal who goofed on geography. If you’re going to mention a building, invention, park, store or road by name (and have intentions of accuracy), double check your facts and make sure it matches up with your time period. Then look down upon the poor souls who set their works in Houston’s Williams Tower circa 1989. Then, set them straight and tell them all about publishing the newly edited work with Kbuuk.