I want to write a scene about the first kiss. I want the setting to be special but anything I'm coming up with is a bit cliched.
What do I do?
I am reminded of Harriet Vane and Lord Peter on the bridge in Oxford, and later, 'kissing madly in a punt'.
There are romantic settings that are just exactly . . . right.
But if you can't find just the right place,
and you're saying to yourself -- 'Wouldn't it be romantic if they kissed at the top of the Eiffel Tower?' --
and taking the characters to France,
you could approach 'first-kiss setting' the way you would any other setting.
This leads me to my newly composed, handy-dandy
Guidelines for Good Setting --
. . . which is just my own take on this so feel free to come up with something entirely additional and contradictory.
1) Good setting lets the characters perform useful plot action.
Sometimes, we got busy protagonists. They do not have leisure to wander off into a new setting just to lock lips.
When our hero and heroine do the Big Moment of mouth to mouth, they are simultaneously stealing a car or baking a poisoned cake or escaping from jail.
If the plot action is just speeding along and the next important plot point is they confront Uncle Ned about his gambling addiction -- then set that kiss when they're leaning against the slot machines on the grand arcade.
One way to find the setting is to keep the protagonists moving forward through the action.
Guideline: Where the action is, there shall your Setting be.
2) Good Setting is interesting.
Not the MacDonalds. The cowboy bar down the street.
Not the laundromat. The morgue.
Guideline: Good setting is interesting in-and-of itself.
3) Good setting is vividly and knowledgeably described.
Unless you know what heathery hills look, feel and smell like, you probably do not want to set scenes in the gloaming on heathery hills because you will be vague and, quite often, wrong.
Many a fictional lass has laid herself down in the gorse and heather. To which I say, 'Ouch.'
If you want to write about a bar fight, fer Pete's sake go sit in some bars.
If you want to write about anything, take the time to look at it. Really look.
4) Good setting reveals character.
Where possible, you put your people in scenery that matters to them or is somehow characteristic of them.
Not a stretch of anonymous beach. A beach where they are waiting for a drug shipment. The stretch of beach where she lost her virginity ten years ago. The rocky cove in front of his grandmother's house.
My books open with the protagonist imprisoned in a house she knew as a child; crouched in the burned-out shell of her family home; walking mean streets she used to run as a young girl; collapsing at the threshold of her lover's headquarters.
Not random scenery. Scenery that resonates with the POV character/protagonist. That means something to her.
Guideline: Build character with every part of the story.
This includes setting.
5) Good setting contrasts with the settings before and after it.
Go inside if they've just spent time outdoors. Go quiet if they've been somewhere frenetic. Safe after danger. Bright after dark. Crowded after solitude. Shiny and mechanical after pastel and pastoral.
Guideline: Contrast keeps the reader from falling asleep.
This is why we do not make a whole meal of yellow food.
6) Good setting builds mood.
You pick the setting to display the exact type of kiss you need.
The rocking, icy-cold deck of a motorboat as they flee the Drug Lords is going to deliver a different mood for kissing than the slithery peace of the reptile cages at the zoo.
Guideline: Mood is the grease that slides the action forward.
7. Good Setting tells story
All by themselves, the settings and the order in which they're placed, tell your story. Where your people are conveys meaning, symbols, impressions, emotion.
|Cavern phot attrib espritdesel|
Guideline: Use setting to show what's really going on.