Week #4 of the Beginner Basic Training series focuses on the WHERE of Writing KidLit.
So far during this six week series, we have looked at the Who, What and When questions that all writers, regardless of genre or age group, can use to outline their plot, setting, character development, and basic facts that should be used to develop their manuscripts. When we answer these questions, we don’t always have to use the information in the text of the story, but the details we create that answer each question can inform the title, the illustrations, the theme, the media kit, and so many other facets of the publishing process for both the author and the publisher as well as influence the enjoyment of the reading experience for the audience.
We want to be sure our setting, the WHERE, of our story is colorful and creative, and that it is developed just as much (and sometimes even more) than the protagonist and antagonist of the story.
When we make a list of WHERE questions to answer, we are quite clearly writing about the location or place within the story. However, the WHERE is more than a place named within your story; it’s the hero’s home, the villain’s lair, the wizard’s castle, the forest, the sea, and even an entire world that had been created…and there is usually more than one. You don’t ever want to answer the WHERE question with just one word because that does not add depth or detail and it certainly will not draw in your readers. When you write about the WHERE, you need to embrace it as another character in your story and you should really use the five senses to draw it out. Smells and tastes, lighting and colors, textures and lines, sounds and silence, height and depth all give wonderful descriptive answers that will engage the mind’s eye of your reader.
Some really basic WHERE questions are:
- Where does the story take place?
- Where did it happen?
- Where did he or she go?
- Where’s the state, town, city?
- Where is their home located?
- Where will the action take place?
- Where will he or she find rest?
- Where will the story begin and end?
- Where does the character have an a-ha moment?
- Where will the villain lose?
- Where will the narrator be within the story?
It’s important to remember that your setting carries weight within your manuscript-whether it’s a picture book set on a sandy beach, a chapter book set on a middle school campus, or a young adult novel set in fashionable Paris, each setting is unique and the words you use in descriptions, dialogue, and details should enhance the story you are telling, the illustrations that are used, and the decisions you make as your story and characters evolve.
Personally, I think WHERE questions are some of the most fun questions to answer. I’m most definitely a visual reader, and my five senses really ignite my imagination as I feel, taste, hear, smell, and see the location and setting of a story when I read. For me, it’s the setting that I remember first from a story. I truly enjoy fully developed concepts that utilize visual and verbal content within a manuscript.