Today on my HNC Social Sciences course I got to listen to Helen’s story. She suffers from Tinnitus and I learned about how she lives with noise and the constant awareness of all the noises around her, that sound is the only sense that doesn’t sleep and what that really means. Which led me to some really great points on setting the scene in your stories that you probably won’t be taught at school.
- Sound can tell time. Helen said that when she couldn’t sleep she could track the time by listening to the noises in her house, hearing when the heating went on at 4 and the house warmed up for her getting up in the morning. I don’t have tinnitus or any trouble sleeping but I can tell when it’s late a night or really early in the morning with bird noises. In the morning the bird noises are louder and (this is going to sound bizarre) a little more chirp that they are at night. For me the heating doesn’t come on in the morning so I have to put it on when I go to make lunch at noon and I’ll start to feel really warm at around 1:30.I’ll know it’s noon because by then I would have heard everyone else in my house leaving to go to work or hear them talking as they have just gotten up. My point is I don’t necessarily have to look at a clock to see how far we are into the day and know what I’m supposed to be doing at that time. How we live and interact with the space around us sets the scene; how our characters live in and interact with their environment sets the scene for readers.
- Association. The most relatable example of this is your own room. What have you done to make it yours? For me, I have quite a few bookshelves in my room, my oil burner so my room smells like buttercream frosting right now. I always make my bed so it looks like it could be a day bed and It’s ready for me to collapse into at any time and all I have to do it pull up the blanket from the bottom of my bed to get comfy (so anyone can tell I’m lazy). I always have music on. I could go on but I think I’ve already written too much. Anyone who knows me can recognise my space by the oil I burn and the music I have playing constantly (mostly Amber Run, Ellie Goulding or SJ Maas’ book playlists!)and the way I make my bed.
- Contrast. “You never know what you have until you lose it.” How do you create your setting with contrast? Well, imagine yourself calm and relaxed and in a beautiful field somewhere where you feel completely at peace. You’re enjoying the quiet when twenty screaming children come rushing past with all their parents calling out to them, playing loud music and setting up their picknick blankets; they are here to stay. If you can’t write about how important this space is to the character, how it relaxes them and makes them feel at ease then maybe you can write about how losing that tranquillity affects them instead.
- Belonging I learned on my course that places are designed for people, for people to use and identify with. There are places designed for groups in mind like churches are made for Christians. Communities can act in the same way, welcoming people who are similar to one another and are part of the same class and social group e.g. council estates and gated communities.The best example I can give is from the movie Oliver Twist, seeing Nancy in Mr.Brownlow’s estate or seeing Mr.Brownlow come to the creaky old house Fagin and all of his boys have been staying. It’s a clash between the classes, it’s a new world experience because the characters don’t feel they belong there. You can experience this too. I have when I’ve visited to the gym, the world of fitness is not for me but I feel perfectly relaxed sitting in Costa and writing. So to put it simply setting is defined by the character and their place in the world. Hopefully you found this interesting and, although these are little strange bits of advice, helpful too.