Things That Influence My Writing: Scientific Magic

Well, that’s a loaded title! In this post I will be answering some questions that have come up during discussions on writing techniques I use and my own personal practices. I promise this is less scary than it sounds to those that are already nervous. With each question I am going to discuss how the topic influences my writing and how it is all part of the tools that are useful in writing, meditation, and introspection.

What Is A Hedge Witch?

A hedge witch is a solitary individual practicing Hedge Witchcraft. If you want to be silly about it, think of someone that really likes playing with rocks, trees, sticks, and plants while practicing mindfulness in everything they do. Let’s emphasize the intense, solitary study of plants and their unique properties. The image conjured is meant to pay tribute to the wise woman that lived as a hermit on the edge of a village or “beyond the hedge”. The idea being that they found “magical intent” in everyday routine and the natural world. Like a fine wine, they age uniquely into the perfect storybook character: my life goal.

That said, I’ve always been someone that has trouble with anything that could possibly be defined as “magical thinking”. I have concepts of what is and is not ethical, and prefer to break something down into its smallest part – understanding the systems that govern it from the inside out, or bottom up depending on who you’re talking to. I want everything to be evidence based and peer reviewed and it turns out that a lot of what I consider to be magic has very little to do with what many would consider religion. Nothing in this practice has anything to do with worship, rather it is devoted to the study and understanding of a natural world.

Is It Like A Hedgehog?

No.

But I have heard of hedgehogs being tamed and kept as pets and the name comes from a similar etymology relating to “hedge”. Also, Jacob really likes hedgehogs.

Do You Make Magic Potions? How About Herbs, Plants, & Tea?

When I lived in the Castro of San Francisco, I worked as a clinical herbalist. This meant that I worked with a lot of terminally and chronically ill patients looking to regain their autonomy wherever they could by replacing supportive medications with herbal equivalents supported by peer reviewed research. I worked with pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to ensure everything these patients used was safe for them and no critical/essential medications were ever replaced. This was not *that* kind of place and we were absolutely not a dispensary. For clarification, at the time in the state of California clinical herbalists could not practice with medical cannabis products due to separate regulations, nor did I want to deal with the liability and legal grey area. This never stopped random people from stopping in and asking if we sold anything that could get them high, at which point I had to direct them to a sign that specifically said if they asked that question they were required to leave the store. If the individual had a medical card in the state of California, did not ask that question, and was simply confused, I could direct them to other businesses within the same neighborhood.

The active compounds in plants are sold in 3 primary ways: dried matter, distillation, and infusion. Dried matter is ground and prepared based on how the active compounds in the plants are best extracted: fat soluble vs. water soluble. This has to do with chemistry I don’t need to get into here. What it comes down to is that many patients elect to consume their medicine by drinking custom compounded tea.

Having worked in agricultural research and alongside herbal medicine practices culturally practiced throughout my life, I loved this job and was sad when the location I worked went out of business due to high rent prices in San Francisco and the low profit margins associated with these types of products. Where I worked was replaced with a high end shoe store that I doubt helped any AIDS or cancer patients.

I recently assisted a friend with an herbal combination and it reminded me how much I love this practice. People often forget how much control they have over their own symptom management when it comes to chronic conditions and it brings me joy when people take that back with something like using chamomile for the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder under the supervision of a trained medical professional (see peer-reviewed double-blind placebo controlled studies 1, 2, 3).

Plants are a major focus for pharmaceutical discovery. Some people forget that the majority of medications on the market are derived from natural products like plants, their endophytes (such as Taxol from yew trees and salicylic acid from willow bark) and molds. Through ethnobotanical studies, the study of how cultures around the world use plants, we gain insight into medicinal compounds derived from plants. The synthetic products we see on shelves are often based on these natural products that may even have been viewed previously as poisons. The dose makes the poison, after all.

While reading “The Moon Hunters” by Anya Pavelle, I immediately understood the significance of a character consuming copious amounts of parsley. For the same reason, I found a friend of mine’s lifelong infatuation with parsley mildly humorous. Let’s be honest – who doesn’t like parsley?

Though I no longer professionally work in this field, I enjoy plants as symbols in writing and I pay attention to how authors choose for plants to be used in their stories. I sometimes talk at great lengths about this to others if they make the mistake of asking. At least now you can make an informed risk!

Tarot Cards, Oracle Cards, And Rune Stones

I have always been fascinated with divination, but not for reasons beyond self reflection, meditation, and helping me see the world in a new way. I don’t believe that any of these tools can predict the future. Instead, I think they can help the viewer gain personal insight into potential outcomes of their own actions as well as new understanding of the past. There’s no “magic” to this beyond what someone creates within their own mind. Think of it like creating a structure or system your brain can map information onto.

I guess there is something magical about personal insight. That feeling of epiphany when you make a connection that you didn’t previously understand. I admit I may be addicted to that feeling to the point I constantly seek out new information and incorporate it into my world views so I can change and adapt. The personal insight gained from any 5 card spread or runic cross is not dependent on the actual cards or runes drawn though. It’s entirely dependent on the willingness to see the interpretation and how it is relevant to you. What pieces of your life in that position (distant past, near past, present, near future, distant future – or however you lay the cards) match this symbol? The beauty of this is that there are no situations where someone could fail to gain personal insight unless they choose not to.

I like to combine three methods because I think this provides the most input to think about and it’s the most helpful when it comes to helping me write. I’ll explain that more in a bit.

Crystals? Scientific Magic?

I love rocks. It’s a family trait. My sister has this amazing gigantic geode slab in my nephew’s bedroom and while I’m not a believer in crystal healing, I do love that before the age of one he’s already the fourth generation to love rocks. Our grandfather was a geophysicist and taught us geology. One of my favorite subjects tended to be how heat and pressure could cause crystalline structures to form. I’ve always been really into molecular structures and how these invisible forces govern the universe. When I look at shiny objects, that’s what my brain is reminded of: invisible forces governing the universe. That glitter.

I love the sciences and am a supporter of science education. I believe the sciences are forms of magic we can often see with our eyes. We can use the sciences to predict the weather, understand the universe around us, and transform matter from one state to another in the same sense that the original chemists called themselves alchemists. If ever there was a way to believe in magic it would be through the study of the scientific fields. Many forget that this is the origin of magic – a pure wonder and pursuit of understanding of the mystery that is our existence.

How Does This Help Break Writer’s Block?

I mentioned that I like to use tarot cards, oracle cards, and rune stones in writing. I find that it’s particularly helpful in cases of writer’s block and will use the results to outline a story. I’ve considered writing on this topic in depth with more examples, but I’m not sure how it will be interpreted by communities that take these practices as communication with a spirit realm, or a number of other more religious focused forms of these practices. I have no intention of conveying disrespect.

I spend a significant amount of time building the settings in which my stories will take place, so any “divination” for the multiple characters within those places helps to decide which of these characters are going to be involved. Sometimes this is more interesting and provides better direction for writing than pulling character names out of a hat.

One of the unique aspects of this practice is that the meditation and personal insight do not go away when I’m using a tarot spread. Instead, I am projecting the epiphanies I have into whatever I’m outlining and creating.

It’s important to note that this is all in the pre-writing, outlining, and drafting stages. I doubt anyone can actually tell I’ve done this when they read my writing because all references are removed and replaced with the insights that they provided – that’s the point.

Is This Appropriative?

This is a loaded question. I’ve read numerous arguments about the use of tarot cards, oracle cards, and rune stones by themselves as cultural appropriation or not being cultural appropriation. I have seen those that argue it is only appropriative if you wear the costume of another culture that is not your own, while others argue anything purchased from a new age store is appropriation and that all new age stores should be burned to the ground. That article was a bit on the scary extreme side and I’d rather not provide traffic to any blog actively calling for violence and/or arson.

Others argue that imitation is the grandest form of flattery and we should embrace multiculturalism, or else those of European descent are left with practices that are historically governed almost exclusively by that which survived the cultural slash and burn of European history written by the “winners” (aka Christians). These practices themselves are problematic in their own ways and are the same ones that were forced on many indigenous populations. While there are some out there working to revive and focus on the mysticism of early Europeans that generations of conquerers attempted to erase (Hi Sean!), be gentle – they’re working with limited historical information and nothing is that simple.

In regards to my spirituality, that is a very complex topic for me. Philosophically, I have been a practicing Buddhist for 15 years. I do not believe in reincarnation. I do not hang Tibetan prayer flags, nor do I plan to take any pilgrimages that end in a hammered Sanskrit tattoo. I do celebrate some of the holidays privately, though I do not apply for religious exemption from an employer for them. These are my personal decisions.

Keep in mind that there are entire religions founded on multiculturalism, such as Unitarian Universalism. You can see their official statement on appropriation here.

I am not an expert on this and I do not want tell anyone what to believe on this topic. One thesis written by a student at the University of Maine, discusses what is and is not cultural appropriation and the controversies in extensive detail. Be sure to give that a read! Another great work by someone that practices in a different way than I do is Willow at Flying The Hedge. I believe that spirituality is a personal choice and how one chooses to practice is a similarly personal decision.

Does This Include Things Like The Age Of Aquarius And Wicca?

History time! The Age Of Aquarius refers to “the current or forthcoming astrological era” that follows The Age Of Pisces. According to some, The Age Of Aquarius started in 1844 with the founding or the religion of Babaism. I don’t put any stock in astrology. I know many have fun with it. I’m not judging those who do. I’m not someone who picks out the astrological signs for each of my characters. That said, this is an absolutely valid technique for character building.

In regards to Wicca, the phrasing is a little inside out. The set of practices used by a hedge witch, and the use of divination tools are included by some in their practices, but I am not Wiccan by any definitions it turns out. I am not a member of any organized group, nor do I seek out others. I am also not a writer on these topics. That said, if you are interested in reading about Wicca, it’s history, ethics, and spiritual awakening, I recommend checking out Jessica Baumgartner’s books, articles and essays and J Steger’s writing on its origins!

Does This Have A Greater Meaning To Me Beyond Writing And Meditation Techniques?

I love plants, rocks, and the natural world. I love the magic that science reveals. My undergraduate major, after a few changes, settled on plant biology. I love ethnobotanical studies. And I love writing.

Beyond bringing together things in my life that bring me joy, no, it doesn’t have any greater meaning to me, but it’s all relative. Where and how do you rank introspection and meditation that reveals new connections and information?

But You Have A Black Cat?

I have a black cat because I like black cats. It’s that simple. No deeper meaning. Nyxie is my precious, talkative little house panther. That’s it.

No, Like, Are You A WITCH?

…No.

Things That Influence My Writing: Linguistics And My Thoughts On Linear A

So I’m watching Trey The Explainer and he mentions this written language used by the Minoans called Linear A. It is related to and pre-dates Linear B. I love historical mysteries like this. Why? Because I love linguistics. I’ve talked about this previously a little when talking about my accent.

The Evolution Of Language

Languages have evolved over time and are still evolving. As an editor, I am in favor of embracing new defined versions of languages specific to geographic locations and unique communities. By defining language systems and fighting to preserve, rather than erase them, we fight language extinction if only in the written form.

I recognize that this gets to be a tricky area because depictions of dialects within racial communities have had a strong tendency to be inappropriate. Period. This is why I think it’s important for the rules of any language to be set by native speakers, that way if someone is attempting to write in a specific way to represent a dialect they are doing so in a consistent manner that has been created accurately. Sadly, this is a very slow process. Linguistics research, in general, is slow. You can help by participating in Accent Tag!

Since languages are constantly evolving, written languages are evolving along side them when present. One of the most fascinating cases of language evolution to me is that of the evolution of alphabets representing sounds – whether they are complete syllables or individual vowels and consonants.

Linear A

Linear A is the “undeciphered” ancient Minoan script that is similar to the later script known as Linear B.

Why Can’t We Use The Rules Of Linear B To Read Linear A?

Current interpretations of Linear A try to assume Linear B preserved the same rules. One of the issues I currently have with this assumption is that language evolution doesn’t mean that “shared phonetic symbols sound the same”.

In Europe, that’s not how phonemes translated to/from written languages worked – and there are letters that have fallen out of use in English and German since the rise of the printing press and Northern Renaissance. Then, during the Enlightenment some European dudes in really fancy pants decided lots of European languages needed to have defined grammar, structure, and spelling.

In China, this first started much earlier with printing presses (everyone knows Bi Sheng invented the first movable type printing press, right?) and was a constant battle between isolated populations with varying languages and the various national governments.

Standardizing languages doesn’t work out – but sadly, even La Francophonie often chooses to ignore basic human rights regarding autonomy and language preservation in favor of pretending that they do instead.

We can assume that as the language evolved into Linear B vowel shifts and consonant shifts happened, changing the assumed pronunciations for these symbols. Therefore, it’s an incorrect assumption to backward apply pronunciation and meaning since Linear B is a younger language. That’s like trying to read and understand Old English using the rules of Middle English.

How Would We Translate Linear A?

So what should we do instead? As with any problem, we have to establish what we know.

Well, we can’t look at anything Greek because genetic evidence suggests that the Minoans weren’t from Greece, rather they were from the East, meaning that the older language to look at would not be Indo-European.

After the fall of the Minoan Civilization, their culture, language, and genetics did merge with the Greek people.

They were seafaring traders that interacted with people living as far as the Iberian peninsula and Egypt. This provides us with some starting information to figure out a bit.

Another clue may be the unique behavior of the mathematical system that they used, that included a built in log scale. Mathematical systems can be a great indicator of the history and culture of a people because they develop out of necessity for explanation.

So what could Linear A’s parent be? Peter Z. Revezs seems to think it’s a shared ancestor of Hattic and Hungarian languages, making it a member of the Uralic language family. This also means we can use the algorithm developed in this paper to get more consistent translations with our growing set of written examples. Their consistency and applicability is compelling. What’s unique about this paper is that it examines only the linguistics using a computational approach and nothing having to do with DNA sequencing or the anthropological history of human remains. That said, more recent studies looking at the oldest remains of individuals come to similar conclusions. In fact, a number of individuals have now come to the same conclusions using vastly differing methods, but there’s still a significant amount of disagreement. […I do recommend reading that thread if you want an interesting source of entertainment and great laughs. There’s some incredible pettiness between researchers who can’t agree on anything and have absolutely no sense of what they look like to everyone watching. Have your popcorn ready.]

Why Is Linear A So Difficult To Crack?

If the Minoans were such prolific seafaring traders, why is it so hard to decipher their language when we are able to decipher Egyptian? Well, we don’t have a ton of writing samples.

We can also assume that Linear A was a language used by seafarers. These languages, such as English once the British decided they just had to colonize all the things, pick up words from other languages and evolve into variants at a much faster pace by forming pidgins with other languages along trade routes.

This means that whatever Linear A did originate from could be unrecognizable without seeing the in between pidgin forms that could be present at all of their trade locations and then building a linguistic timeline. We don’t have a large enough sample size for that. Hopefully, as we find more remnants of Minoan trading, most recently in places like France and Serbia, a timeline could develop to support or debunk the computational relationship to the Hattic language establishing it as a member of the Uralic language family.

Why Does Any Of This Matter?

The evolution of language matters because it’s one of the ways we can understand the evolution of the human brain and we can understand the things some cultures found important enough to write down. The written component of a language provides us with one small piece of the puzzle that is a dead language. The more we understand about how languages evolved, the more we can understand about contact between different human groups as well as how their civilizations were structured. Language provides huge insights into details about general views, such as the self and how one relates to past, present, and future.

All languages require the transmission of information from source to a receiver. This information must be encoded in some way. This information must then be passed to the recipient via a channel – such as a physical medium or sensory perception. This is the tricky part – if the recipient can’t decode the information effectively things can be problematic. We can’t decode Linear A, we can’t read things written in Linear A. To better talk about this I’m going to focus on language encoding because decoding is the reason why it’s all important.

We have 5 primary ways that we’ve communicated (encoded information) over time:

  • Pictographic
  • Phonetic
  • Written Phonetic
  • Signed Languages (Phonetic / Symbolic)
  • Interpretive or Body Language

Pictographic

Okay, see? You’re not crazy for thinking emojis are a natural part of English. Illuminated manuscripts contained illustrations to complement or work in place of written words, occasionally, in line. Pictographs are some of the oldest forms of language we have if you don’t want to count early stone stippling forms that often predate full pictographs on some continents. We have absolutely no way of knowing how languages that use these symbolic languages pronounced their words and often the false assumption that they had simplistic language structures is made. Modern symbolic languages and improved understanding of language evolution has provided evidence that this is not the case. One of the problems with pictographic languages is that they rely on subjective interpretation to convey messages. This leads to opportunities for miscommunications and that’s how arguments get started over who sent who the wrong emoji and what it meant.

Phonetic/Spoken

Purely spoken languages with no preservation disappear when the people do. This is why many indigenous languages are endangered, and why one of the only good things that came out of the messed up stuff those evangelical missionaries did during the colonization of the world was to come up with ways to translate the Bible into lots of indigenous languages. This didn’t save all indigenous languages and there are many that still need help to be preserved by supporting the sovereignty of these nations to teach public schools, print road signs, and write government documents, and have local media stations dedicate to indigenous languages. These methods have been used to save Welsh, Maori, and some indigenous languages here in the United States. I first learned about these efforts in 2006 when Congress passed the Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act. This program runs out in 2024 and has not been enough, with many native speakers threatened now more than ever by SARS-CoV-2. When all innate speakers of a language die out, the reality is the language is gone forever, even if recordings and written documentation of the language remain. This is because a spoken language is more than just words. As previously mentioned in my post on accents, how a person sounds when they speak communicates information to the listener. With dead languages (no original speakers remaining) this information that could be compared to epigenetics in the sense that histone modification of gene expression is passed down through generations and can be traced through relatives based on their environmental exposures and life experiences. It’s weird.

Written Phonetic

Written phonetic languages are those that tell you exactly what they sound like. Or at least they try to. Vietnamese and Arabic are both great examples of a written phonetic languages. It’s important to note that not all languages will neatly fit into either a Written Phonetic language or a Pictographic language – Modern English and Japanese both doing great jobs of demonstrating this and Linear A is an additional example.

Spoken languages rely on body languages, subjective implication, and contextual interpretation for the full communication for information. Written phonetic languages, while preserving a bit more structural information about a language, without the other components provide the bare minimum regarding the information being conveyed. Subjective interpretation of written phonetic languages is something that requires

Signed Languages

An accidental study and total violation of human rights lead to the discovery that humans will always develop natural language when in a sufficiently socialized group, even if non-auditory. Natural signed languages do not naturally possess a phonetic linkage except in communities where there is full integration between auditory and non-auditory communicating communities.

Some phonetic signed languages are constructed languages. When I was a kid, I learned Cued Speech with a childhood friend. We didn’t really talk using words, instead relying on our own sign language I wish I remembered today. She used Cued Speech to learn how to use phonetic pronunciation in a speaking world and I used it for speech therapy.

Signed languages are distinguished from body language by the use of specific gestures with unique meanings and the defining unit features of a language required to designate grammatical rules. When a sign language dies with no record, much like a spoken language, it is considered a dead language and even the signed languages that American Sign Language was based on have now died.

Body Language

Different elements (forms) of non-verbal communication [14].  
Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Different-elements-forms-of-non-verbal-communication-14_fig1_221217376 <- really cool paper on non-verbal communication in video game avatars.

Body language is the major component to the communication of language that is often left out. It’s the most subjective, easy to misinterpret, and complementary to spoken/phonetic language or signed languages. Body language can often be broken down into “universal” and “non-universal”.

Body language studies are fairly controversial and some of the best studies focus on the behaviors of non-human primate species. “Universal” body language seems to have some level of genetic predisposition and in neurotypical infants is among the first forms of language to be understood. This “universal” body language is considered easier for neurodiverse individuals to learn thanks to clear definitions.

“Non-universal” body language includes gestures that may fall into a scenario where gestures can represent a number of things depending on context related to a local region, spoken language, and a specific culture. This kind of body language is highly subjective and evolves (or becomes extinct) quickly. This kind of body language is the kind often related to miscommunication, misinterpretation, and culture shock. What may be polite to one person may be like slapping another person’s grandmother.

Linguistics Is More Complicated Than This

I don’t want anyone to be under the impression that this is all there is to linguistics. I have barely scratched the surface with the above introductions to inaccurate terms that are a bit friendlier to a non-jargon seeking audience. My interests tend to focus on the documentation of unique variants of languages and the cracking of written languages that are not yet understood so they can be decoded. If you’re interested in linguistics, you should read primary literature on these topics and consider getting involved in citizen science efforts such as the Accent Tag.

Language extinction hurts everyone. Because language gives structure to abstract experiences, loan words between languages allow for the expression of and adoption of words for human experiences that had not previously been given concrete language or attempts at understanding. That means that, in some regard, by preserving global language diversity, we have the ability to control our intellectual evolution.

TL;DR

I advocate for people to:

  • Learn about threatened and endangered languages
  • Learn the basics of linguistics
  • Learn about language evolution, so it can be embraced and accepted

If you enjoyed this, please like, comment, and/or share – it helps me know which types of content my readers want to see.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my rambling about Linear A and linguistics today. Without you these would be bits of data floating around waiting to be accessed in that 1.2 petabytes we call the internet.

Things In Writing I Pay Attention To That Other People Might Not Care About

If Haskell gets any closer Nyxie will show him the consequences

Yes A Does Really Have To Get To B Eventually

Cause And Effect

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Unresolved situations are frustrating.

Example: If a character experiences trauma, they will be traumatized and then display signs of trauma as a result of the event.

To not experience trauma in response to a traumatic event indicates something other. This could be used as a literary device. If it is not being used as a device it is distracting and takes away from the work. Make sure all actions have consequences.

Does The Characterization Of Each Character Match Up With The Timeline?

Characters are on a journey. Each character is moving from A to B and some will go on to C or D. Along those paths each character is changed. This creates the timeline of a book. How a character is portrayed in a scene needs to match the point in the timeline a character is at.

Example: A character that is in her twenties thinks about bills and her job as opposed to a character in her teens that is thinking about school. Because of this, the relationships formed around these areas are most important in life and are the most emotionally impactful outside of family and those that might as well be family.

We Didn’t Go Anywhere

When the setting of a story changes it’s important to have some form of transition to show movement of time and place.

There are some stories that don’t include enough details about objective indicators of passage of time and check that they are consistent such that all of the details of the story align temporally.

There are some stories that don’t include them at all and it’s somehow eternal summer somewhere bizarre like Alaska.

There are some stories that include way too much detail. It’s overwhelming and distracting from the story. I am suddenly studying the passage of time and the changing of the seasons instead of the nature of man.

There are some stories that include lots and lots of details. So many details. All the details. But none of them align temporally, so suddenly April was both 6 months ago and 2 months ago with Winter only 3 months away. This is when I start getting headaches. James Joyce does this. A lot.

Characters Have Hidden Lives

It’s Okay To Have “Offensive” Characters

There’s a huge difference between an “offensive” character that upsets readers and an overdone inaccurate stereotyped character that upsets readers because it doesn’t resonate.

The best offensive characters speak to the group they’re offending because they are too accurate and too real. This will be upsetting to some people. That’s the kind of “offensive” I relish. There may be those that demand a content warning. Good – research is showing that content warnings increase the reads a piece gets much like good tagging because people are seeking them out.

I don’t care who the author is – I promise if you have done your research and shaped your character in a way that reveals truths in your observations, I will love your character even if people get really upset with you over it. Cut the wound deep and hit where it hurts, not where it’s been done ad nauseum unless it’s real. Reveal something no one else has, but remember that pen names exist for your protection.

Your Characters Have Conversations The Reader Doesn’t Know About And Doesn’t See

An author cannot document everything. They are writing down a snapshot of a potential alternate universe that could exist because someone thought of it, right? That means all of those characters have private inner lives the reader can’t possibly know in its entirety. This means characters can have relationships with each other that are implied instead of explicitly stated. All of this helps to create depth.

It helps to come up with a full backstory for every character in a story even if it’s never talked about or mentioned. This will influence how dialogue is written and how hidden relationships between characters are revealed.

Your Characters Have Moods

Depending on your character’s internal state they will have a mood. This mood will translate into action or inaction in response to a stimulus and that will result in some consequence. Moods and energy levels related to exhaustion as an effect of the story timeline should all be cohesive.

Your Characters Of Different Cultures Are Going To Have Trouble Getting Along

Culture clash is real. The minority of people will be peaceful and fine and that’s great, but your characters aren’t the saints you think they are. Nope. They are averse to change and other cultures and view other as dangerous. This goes all ways. Be real – your characters from different cultures are going to be uneasy around each other and hesitant to make friends for legitimate reasons evolutionary wired in (if they’re humanoid).

Settings Are Places That Can Only Be Known Through Experience

Setting Descriptions Have A Time And Place With Characters In Them

It is not uncommon that I run into setting descriptions that are detached from the story either by the characters not interacting with the setting features or by the characters existing completely separate from setting descriptions.

By integrating setting details with the story as a whole the sensory experience can be the focus. The integrated sensory experience of the setting provides the reader with a greater sense of passage of time.

Settings Indicate Culture

Think about it – In the United States, if I set a story in the South a reader is going to anticipate a lot of passive aggressive saccharine manipulation straddled by y’alls happening. If I set a story in the Northeast, there’s a more WASPy social norm puppet show expectation.

But that’s based on the dominant culture of an area. What about when you’re writing about an area’s subculture?

I like to refer to framing subculture structures in writing as “country clubs” – it’s exclusive, you need to know someone to be someone, and there are generally specific central gathering places.

TL;DR

  • Make sure everything makes sense temporally
  • Ground the reader in temporal details outside the character
  • Offend by speaking the truth and make very effort to ensure that truth resonates in an effective and impactful way with the audience
  • Characters have conversations the reader won’t see but totally influence what the final dialogue will be.
  • Characters have inner lives, states, and energy levels that change as a result of the story. Write that.
  • Culture clash is real. Observe it and describe it. Be curious and nuanced. This gives a story so much depth.
  • Details of setting can be added to show passage of time in the story and immerse the characters and action in the location.
  • Settings indicate dominant culture and can somewhat indicate subcultures.

Thank you for reading! If you like this post on writing please like and let me know. What are things in books that drive you crazy?

Book Promotion: Part 1 of “Honor” by Francis Williams

Remember this one?

Francis Williams is happy to share that part 1 of “Honor” is now available on Kindle for free.

If you haven’t checked out my review of “Honor” you can do so here.

Have a safe and wonderful rest of your weekend and thank you for reading.