Saturday, December 29, 2012

Setting the Scene

I need two three-minute bits to read aloud for school. One's for open mike night. That's tough because three minutes isn't long enough to read much of a novel to any purpose. So I just steal from the funnier of my posts here.

Last summer, I modified this post on Deciphering Romance Novel Blurbs & Reviews. Seemed to go over well enough.

This time (which is to say, next week's Stonecoast residency which is also next month's residency, and the first of next year's residencies) I plan to do a shortened version of my post on The Two-Minute Orgasm, possibly just for the thrill of saying "fuck" in front of my classmates.

The other read-aloud is more private. The ten or so students who started in Popular Fiction last winter got together midway through the residency and read aloud to each other, for practice. (I read a foreplay scene, perhaps again for the thrill of using the word "fuck" in front of my classmates.)

This time, someone asked for excerpts that "set the scene," meaning they establish a time and place for the protagonist to move through.

I've selected two really short bits from Love in Reality. First up, the hero visits his parents:
   Rand pulled into his parents’ driveway, turned off the car and sat for a moment, gazing at the perfectly-maintained landscaping. His parents’ house wasn’t large by Bel Air standards, but it sat on a particularly gracious lot, perfect for entertaining. Perfect for his mother to swan around, impeccably dressed, making sure everyone was comfortable. Perfect for his father to entertain industry moguls with his stories of clashes with the network honchos. Perfect for everyone to feel smart and creative instead of just lucky.

   Even the air smelled perfect as Rand opened the car door. He shook his head. All this perfection and he still dreaded the duty Sunday brunch visit. He loved his parents, but he and Alan-Jennings-the-TV-producer (as opposed to Alan-Jennings-his-dad—when was the last time Rand had a conversation with his own father that hadn’t been about the industry?) seemed locked in a tug-of-war over Rand’s disappointing career choices.

   The only imperfect thing the Jennings had to deal with was their son. No wonder he didn’t feel comfortable coming home.
Second excerpt is Libby early in her time on the reality TV show The Fishbowl:
   While the others were chatting about nothing in particular, waiting for the disembodied voice to tell them what to do next, Libby went back into the living room to look around. There was always a challenge involving details of the decor, so no reason not to study for it now. The walls this year were vaguely rounded in places, but they still had the large, built-in fish tanks, stocked with colorful fish. Libby crouched down to see the camera behind the fish tank, getting “watery” shots of the contestants in the background with real fish in the foreground. She memorized the number of fish in each tank before turning back to the living room furnishings.

   The decor was like Little Mermaid on Ice sponsored by Ikea—lots of blues and greens with sleek Swedish modern furniture. Tall, spiky potted plants mimicked seaweed and the few paintings echoed the sense of being under water. There were a lot of round shapes, too—rugs, wall art, pillows. Bubbles, Libby thought as she counted them.
 Nothing earth-shaking, but I think they get the job done. With luck, the reader can visualize the space and get a better sense of the character(s).

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