Resources: Writer’s Workshop – Writing Prompt – Characterization of Setting

CHARACTERIZATION OF SETTING

I went to a local writer’s conference a few years ago and it was in one of the sessions taught by Donald Maass that I absorbed this gem.

The exercise was to take a THING in your setting, not a person, and give it emotion.  The prompt went something like this:

Visualize a 70 year-old man.  He is standing in open field, staring at his barn. He was just informed that his only son was killed in Iraq. Describe the barn.

Is the barn scowling at him? Mocking him? Are the windows dark and desolate, like the feelings engulfing the poor man?

Now take the same scenario, different circumstances.

Visualize a 70 year-old man.  He is standing in open field, staring at his barn. He was just informed by his first granddaughter, who will be turning Sweet 16 in four weeks, that she wants to have her party in his old barn. Describe the barn.

Does your rickety old bar suddenly hold promise?

Think about the settings in which your characters are in. Can you further their emotion by characterizing their surroundings?