Discussion: Relevant Setting: Cron of Writing
Lisa Cron Is a story coach and her book has this line in the title: Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the very First Sentence.
Premise: of her work
We use stories to learn about about complex human behavior, and thereby be better able to predict it.
People look for patterns in everything.
Context and Goals
Before building relevance into setting you have to make sure you know what the context is, and what’s at stake/the character’s desires and goals.
This is important because it determines the types of patterns the reader is looking, how they interpret information.
You need to know this so you can make sure the information you’re giving them is meaningful.
They need to know this so they can look for meaning in the information/story.
Literal Author Knowledge:
Marco is a big jerk, but since I’d rather die than be alone I better do everything he wants me to, even if these stilettos kill my feet.
Story translation and meaning
Marco and I walked into the courtyard, I saw my neighbor, Mabel, scurry into her apartment, quickly closing her door lest one of her cats slip out. How many does she have? Eight, nine? Yet she always looks so sad, as if she’s afraid even he cats don’t like her. There but for the grace of god, I thought, grateful for the weight of Marco’s arm around my shoulders, even if it means I have to walk faster to keep pace with him, which isn’t easy in stilettos.
Here we have setting, they are walking down the street, she sees the neighbor. She doesn’t describe the house, or the garden, in the fact the only thing she describes about her neighbor is the fact that she own lots of cats. But there’s more to it than that. Her deep fear manifest in how she reacts to the other woman.
The setting tells us something about the character, about the story, if we are looking. The patterns are there. It's not setting for the sake of imagery, the setting allows us to get deeper into the character.
“When my parents would argue I took refuge in my pink palace bedroom. There was mardi gras wallpaper on the walls and I would try to find the jester as I lay there listening.”
The first point has relevance to the character. A “pink palace” tells us she’s a girly girl, or that her mother is one and forcing that onto the daughter.
The Mardi Gras wallpaper doesn’t. It’s an extra detail, that doesn’t drive the story forward or deepen the character.
Yes it’s imagery, but it also slows the pacing of the story.
We talked about theme in setting and the movie The Shawshank Redemption.
The theme a contrast between hope and hopelessness
Robert McKee: avoiding didactic stories
You don’t just write a theme, you compare and contrast them.
The scene in the movie theater. In one shot we don't’ see the screen, but just the darkroom and the single flickering light of the projector. A literal light at the end of a dark space.
By putting theme into each of those setting, they became more relevant to the story. There were deeper patterns in all of them, and that is something brain loves.