Monday, April 30, 2012

How Setting Can Unlock Deep POV

One of my favorite things about writing is creating word pictures. Actually, the only way I can really delve into a new story, is finding physical objects or environmental anchors to assist in developing my characters on the page. Sometimes it's easy to load too much fluff in description, and now-a-days, the fluff is less and less accepted.
HOWEVER, if you write with a purpose, then description can be key in not only anchoring your character to the setting, but also unlocking deep pov, or the character's internal struggles and thought.

Example from my wip. The setting of this novel is a coal town:
Leanna stared hard at the black dust caked in Jack's nails and shadowed upon his lips while he mumbled a prayer of gibberish. 
Tongue of a fool. Surely God can't hear his tongue.
She sighed and considered a prayer of forgiveness. Whatever effort she had promised herself to muster up and ignore the bitterness only failed by nightfall. 
How appropriate, blackness of night pried open her well of hate, springing forth its miserable leak. Blackness revealed the honest truth. The blackness of the dust in this God-forsaken place; darkness of the shadow that hid whatever love Leanna first felt for the man who hovered over his meager meal, ready to devour the work of her hands after a long day in the blackness of the earth.

When I began this story, the coal town setting brought to mind the black dust. After developing my character's arc, I knew what the setting meant to the heroine. She hated it, it's a place she did not want to be. So blackness in this instance, symbolized void, hate, discontent, suppressed love. The blackness of the dust, the blackness of the night, the blackness of the earth, darkness of the shadow, all these things pull out Leanna's pov for the reader.
Now, blackness could very well mean richness of the earth, wealth of the mining company. If I chose to use the blackness to just explain the setting, the infrastructure of the coal town, then it would not be as strong of a word picture...because it only indirectly anchors the character to setting, and it doesn't have the deeper intention to pull out her inner thoughts.

Have you taken a journey through your setting, grabbing items or characteristics along the way?

Mold them, weave them, discover their unique ability to bear your character's soul to your reader.

Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across cultures. She is an ACFW member and CEO of a family of six.


Anonymous said...

Ooo this hadn't ever consciously occurred to me. Brilliant post and example.

Unknown said...

I love word pictures too, but I really love how you used an idea to anchor your character in the scene. Great example and thoughts today. Thank you!

Susan Anne Mason said...


Thanks for this! I've been struggling how to do this in my work and I think you've given me a glimpse!

Loved your example! Love the symbolism!


Angie Dicken said...

Jeanne, I am a scene knowing what my character is surrounded by!
Susan,hope you are able to apply it to your work now. Thanks for stopping by!

Mary Vee Writer said...

One crit person told me last night they couldn't see my character's feelings. They could see her thoughts, setting, story question, and every other component but she could see the feeling. I don't like to blatantly write in feelings. I think you have given me a way to solve the problem.
Always marvel at God's timing.

Casey said...

I loved your example! You're great at work pictures and the fact that an author can become conscious of it is so important. :)

Angie Dicken said...

Wow, Mary! That's awesome. Glad to be a part of it:)

Angie Dicken said...

Thanks Casey! It is such a great tool to use.

Julia M. Reffner said...


You do beautiful at bringing out the setting here. This is really a strength in your writing and I'm so glad you're helping us with it. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I definitely think in particular genres this can be so effective. Using this type of symbolism will really make a reader feel a character. In my current WIP, my character doesn't want to be in the town I've dumped her in and I feel like she's still a bit disconnected from the setting, so this post is a great reminder. Thanks!

Pepper said...

You know, Ang, there is a great book for writers called Word Pictures. I've only read 1/3 of it, but am picking back up after this post. BEAUTIFUL example and wonderful reminder. I love creating pictures too.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Excellent stuff, girl! I'm terrible at this, but you really helped point me in the right direction.

Angie Dicken said...

Thanks, Julia!

Angie Dicken said...

Cindy, You bring up a good point...I wonder how this plays out in other genres? Symbolism is big in historical and classical literature. And women' does It work in Romantic comedy though? I know Ashley does a good job of anchoring her characters to place through their love of the small southern town...anyway, would love to hear more thoughts on symbolism across genres.

Angie Dicken said...

Ooh, I will have to look at that! Thanks, Pep!

Angie Dicken said...

Sherrinda, I bet you are better than you think!:)

Andrea said...

Hi! I just found your blog and I love it! I would love to be a part of your growing community of writers. I, too, am an aspiring author.

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Angie Dicken said...

Welcome Andrea! Glad you found us:)