HOW IMPORTANT IS ENVIRONMENT?

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Picture this: Your characters are in a gun fight. Bullets flying through the empty air. Nothing but white space all around them. No people running out of the way. No glass to crash through. No busy streets with gridlocked traffic to trap the fight and build tension. No buildings to jump off to avoid the inevitable explosion from a well hidden bomb. No breeze. No season of the year,(Colored leaves scattered over the ground, knee high snow drifts, or sweltering heat from the never ending laser beam of the sun.)

Your environment paints a picture of your world. It pulls the reader in and says to them, “This feels real.” Leave it out and you have the above white space floating around in their imagination; nothing but white space.

How do you choose environment for your characters? That depends on genre of the story. If it’s sci-fie, you might consider a spaceship or an alien world. Romance, Paris or an empty park filled with flowers and colorful trees. Action, I prefer environments we can relate to in everyday life. Offices are not a bad choice. The bank you pass every day. Maybe the school or college you attended.

Pictures are very helpful. Google has a wonderful source of reference, just remember not to use them for commercial use. Then you get sued and you end up like the guys in the first paragraph. (Maybe you take less drastic measures.)

We’ve established that environment is connected to Genre. It is also connected to character type. For instance, You might not find the homeless man who witnessed a murder hanging out inside a jewelry store. You might not find the well dressed assassin hanging out at Walmart.

Where you place your characters tells us a lot about them. How they live. What kind of money they have. What kind of friends or enemies they might have. How they might live. All of these things play on each other.

We humans have been building places to exist since the beginning. We’ve thrived in every environment from the deserts to the swamps. In the mountains and even underground. It’s our job to put our characters in a place they belong.

Can these rules be broken? Yes, break these rules. Maybe your character being in an environment they don’t belong in is part of your story. Maybe they don’t know they don’t belong there. Maybe part of their journey is coming to know that fact.

Weather is definitely important. Is it raining? Is it cold outside? If so, can we see their frosted breath? (Little kids at a bus stop pretending they’re smoking, pushing their breath out with their fingers holding imaginary cigarettes.)

When writing about your environment, remember your six senses. (Yes, SIX) Smell, touch, hear, taste, see, sense. Have you ever walked into a room and had a weird feeling like you’re being watched? SIXTH SENSE.

How do you use the senses. You can use them all but It’s not necessary. A few should be more than enough. Some author’s like to write a paragraph or two and set the scene before their characters interact with the environment. A great example of this style is used often in a book called: Of Mice and Men, a novella written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. It is also a great example of writing accents.

I prefer to layer my description between dialog and action. I find it makes for a story that flows and is never interrupted by a constant output of information. The last thing I want is to push a reader out of the story to talk about a tree for three pages. Total overkill will make someone close your book.

When writing, try to find your own path. Use the method that works best for you and if you’re ever unsure how to handle your environment. Step away from the computer and go take a walk, environments are all around you.

Fatigue & Writer’s Remorse

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One of the worst things to fight during story building is fatigue. If you’re too tired when you’re creating your master piece, you run the risk of ‘writer’s remorse.’ You will create tons of pages, maybe some will be good and you can bet that some will not. You will find yourself writing ‘double paragraphs.’ Two paragraphs, usually one after the other, saying exactly the same thing but in different ways. You want to avoid this.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that you won’t be able to use any of your work that you create during your foggy minded typing. What I am saying is that you won’t be able to tell if it truly is good or if it belongs in the bin, as Gordon Ramsey might say. It’s underdone, put it back in the oven.

Writer’s remorse is YOU plugging away at that amazing story and ending up with choppy scenes, unwanted characters, bad plot, flat people, no environment, maybe no reaction. REACTION drives your characters. Without it, you have flat characters. I once read a short story where a guy was stabbed and he didn’t even grunt, no cursing, no “AHHHH! You stabbed me!” Nothing. What the hell, some guy stabs you, you’re gonna make a fuss. Right?

Maybe you completely forget to mention your environment. What? Your world has no weather? No people in it except the talking heads? No obstacles? Why would you ever want to read a story like that?

Eventually, you get some rest. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, you sit at your overlord, COMPUTER and open your story, start reading what ever it was you wrote the night before to find all of the above. You’re left sitting there, staring at this mess that’s got a goofy grin staring back, mocking you, maybe the story flips you off and says, “Deal with it.”

What do you do? You suffer from writer’s remorse. Now you spend the next month, cutting, editing, rewriting, adding tons of time onto your goal. Before you know it a year slipped by and your friends and allies wont talk to you because you’ve ignored them all this time to right this horrible wrong. You could never let that story see the light of day or you would loose all face as a serious author.

To avoid all of this, get a note book. Write your whole story in it, planning it in scenes before you even type a single word. When the time comes, you write the whole thing in a couple months and call it a book. That’s life, a world you create, without writer’s remorse.

Good luck, and put you’re tray in the upright position, we’re landing here people.

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