In the previous two blogs on story world (The Where of Your Story and The When of Your Story) we discussed the where and when of our story world. The where and when of our story is information we need to know before we write, “It was a dark and stormy night,” or whatever our opening line is.
But it doesn’t end there. It’s my experience that the heart of our story world will be revealed as we actually write our novel. Why do I say this? Because our story world won’t come alive until our characters are in it, interacting with it as they pursue their story goals.
How our leads see the story world is vital to opening the eyes of our readers to the wonders and mysteries that world contains.
When we show the story world through our characters’ eyes, wonderful things happen.
One, the story world can add tension and conflict as our heroine strives to overcome obstacles to achieving her goal.
Two, the story world becomes a character, maybe even an antagonist. Think of The Shining or The Perfect Storm.
Three, when we see the story world through our characters eyes, we discover more about our characters and what drives them. We get a picture of how they came to be who they are.
Following are two descriptions of the same place. I think you’ll see the word pictures reveal more of the character than the world itself. And this is an ideal use of story world.
These excerpts describe one of the main attractions in downtown Fort Worth known as Sundance Square from the perspective of two different characters.
The heat bears down on me, pressing me into the softened asphalt. Eleven o’clock at night and it’s still ninety degrees. The air reeks of ozone and booze, of cigarettes and pot, of sweat and perfume. Perspiration flows down my back, gluing my shirt to my skin. Neon flashes and stabs the night, lances of light burn through my eyes and into my skull. A door opens as I walk past a bar. The blast of air conditioning chills me. Country Western music twangs in my ears. Alcohol-fueled laughs and shouts echo off the buildings. Every third step someone bumps or jostles me. I constantly check to make sure my wallet is still in my pocket. Pizza and steak and Cajun aromas roil my stomach. Another two blocks to my car. Two blocks that stretch to two miles in a Twilight Zone haze. Why did I ever agree to come to Sundance Square on the Fourth of July?
The bright neon dazzles. A kaleidoscope of blue and red and orange and yellow, like a permanent fireworks display. I inhale. Steak. Pizza. Cajun. I’ve tasted it all tonight and I’m still hungry. Warm enough for cargo shorts, sandals, and a tank top. The warm weather has the girls dressed to keep cool. Their short skirts flounce around their bare legs. I walk by a bar as the door swings open. I stand and revel in the blast of air conditioning. A country band is singing an upbeat love song and the crowd two-steps to the rhythm, their boots stomping the hardwood floor. I smell the beer and remember anew the microbrews I enjoyed tonight. A whiff of perfume dances by me. Visions of bluebonnets fill my mind. Every two or three steps I pirouette with another person in a sidewalk ballet, laughing. I approach my car way before I expect it and thumb my key fob. Eleven o’clock. Way too early to leave Sundance Square, especially on the Fourth. But my boss wants me in at seven in the morning. I salute a cop as I drive away. Until next weekend, Sundance.
What are some ways you use your story world to reveal your characters?