Thursday, September 15, 2011

Using Setting to Create Atmosphere

I’ve read articles on writing fiction which state that, if plot and character are the two most important ingredients, then setting is number three. I don’t look at it that way. For me, setting is an integral part of my writing. I use several key elements of setting: where the story takes place (location), when (time frame), the weather and the season of the year (including holidays) to create atmosphere (mood) in my novels. The following are examples of how I used those key elements of setting in my first novel, Mixed Messages. Notice how the elements often overlap.

Location: In the distance, she could hear the electronic carillon from Westwood Methodist Church playing the theme song from the old television show, The Adam’s Family. She began to hum along with the music as she stood there, gazing at the three-story, cream-colored Victorian, admiring its multi-gabled slate roof, turret and wrap-around veranda.
Time Frame: She finished pinning together the pieces of the kids’ Halloween costumes. She held them up, one at a time, and examined her work. Satisfied with the results, she turned her sewing machine on and, as she guided the material for Danielle’s costume under the needle, running her fingers across the smooth, satiny fabric . . . .
The weather: “What a gloomy day this has turned into,” David said aloud, flipping on the windshield wipers and turning on the headlights. The sky was gray and a light drizzle had begun to fall.
The season: Looking out at the trees with their scarlet, orange and golden leaves, she was reminded of a poem by Robert Frost that she’d had to memorize when she was in school. She strained to remember the words but all she could recall was the title, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

What's in a name?

Several months ago, my mom and I were talking about my writing career. She asked me what name I planned to go by, what pen name I was going to use. “Maybe,” she said, “you should choose a name that’s easier to pronounce than Gligor. Don’t most writers do that?” Our conversation reminded me of an article I once read. It was an interview with actress, Jacqueline Bisset. When the interviewer told Jacqueline that he’d heard several variations on how to pronounce her last name and asked her which was correct, she replied, “Biss-It, like Kiss it.” I think that answered his question.

Names are important; they represent who we are. When I write, I am extremely careful when choosing the names for my characters. I’ve read novels where two of the main characters had names that were so similar, beginning with the same letter, etc., that it was a bit confusing. The last thing that I want to do is confuse my readers because a confused reader may get frustrated and put down my book. I also select names that “feel” right for my characters, that seem to fit them. For example, Olivia Berger is one of the characters in both of my novels. The name suits her. You’ll have to read my novels to find out why.

So, back to the answer that I gave my mother. While I don’t see anything wrong with using a pseudonym (sometimes a writer has a good reason to do that), I prefer not to. Why? Because Gligor is my family name; it was my grandfather’s and my father’s name and I’m proud to have it. As far as the pronunciation goes: Gligor rhymes with tiger. Not too hard to pronounce, after all, is it?