Settings and Star Trek

Several times, I've encountered in writing articles the advice that all, or most, setting description should be omitted from your stories. I think that can be a mistake.

Of course you don't want to overdo it, but setting is, or can be, very important to a tale. It may set a mood, which is no small thing to do for a reader. It may be part of characterization. Describing a man's office or a woman's kitchen can tell the reader a lot about those characters. But even if it serves as nothing but a backdrop against which action or emotion is portrayed, it is still important.


Because the lack of setting description turns visually oriented readers (such as myself) into Melkots.


Anyone old enough to remember the original Star Trek series may remember an episode titled "Spectre of the Gun" (aka "The Last Gunfight"). The Enterprise trespassed on Melkotian space and the Melkots punished the earthmen by forcing them to reenact the gunfight at the OK Corral ... with the men of the Enterprize being the Clantons--the losers. The Melkotian plan was to execute the trespassers with elements of their own culture.

But the Melkotians either didn't learn enough about the setting from the starship's memory/history banks, or else they didn't care enough to completely recreate it. Their rendition of Tombstone, Arizona had big gaps and voids. The buildings of the town had only a front wall. In the saloon, for example, and you could see the landscape of the alien planet behind the bar. Above it, a clock hung in thin air. It was bizarre, and help set the tone for one of Star Trek's creepiest (and most riveting) episodes.

In that case, visual gaps in the setting were extremely effective. But if you're not going for creepy sci-fi in your story, turning your readers into Melkots may not set so well with them. It can be disconcerting and decrease their enjoyment of the story.

That's the way I am when I read something that doesn't give me sufficient information to create the setting in my head. The characters will act in front of a bizarre, and perhaps inadvertently creepy, half-built set with black voids here and there.

The best setting descriptions don't include every little detail, of course, because you don't want to bog the reader down in unnecessary minutia. But a good writer knows, or has to learn, the minimum to provide so the reader's imagination can recreate a whole, reasonably accurate setting/backdrop for the story's action.

Southern literature vs. Southern fiction

Wikipedia's definition of Southern Literature references an article by Patricia Evans that appears on a server at James Madison University. It sez:

Southern literature (sometimes called the literature of the American South) is defined as American literature about the Southern United States or by writers from this region.

Characteristics of Southern literature include a focus on

--a common Southern history
--the significance of family
--a sense of community and one’s role within it
--the region's dominant religion (Christianity — see Protestantism)
--the burdens/rewards religion often brings
--issues of racial tension
--land and the promise it brings
--a sense of social class and place
--the use of the Southern dialect

Jerry Leath Mills is reportedly the origin of the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. (What makes Southern literature Southern? It has a dead mule in it.)

Mills' tongue-in-cheek scholarship on the subject appeared in "Equine Gothic: The Dead Mule as Generic Signifier in Southern Literature in the 20th Century," which appeared in the 1990s in The Southern Literary Journal.

Mills' work apparently inspired other researchers to seek "generic signifiers" in every other kind of literature, from New England to the Midwest, from Jewish to French, from feminist to romance, according to Peter Applebome at the New York Times.

Oh, well. Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. And sometimes ends up being fun! Or at least interesting.

Or not.

November Madness

November First. The first day of NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month. You know, where you turn off your inner editor and write a 50,000 word novel in a month.

I was gonna do that. Had every intention of doing it. I went to my local RWA group's meeting today, intending to come home and get started. And then I remembered.

I hadn't signed up.

You hafta sign up aheada time.

Oh, well.

One less thing to do in November.

I do have my 102,000 word behemoth mainstream/romantic elements novel to finish. (Info/excerpt/trailer HERE.)

And I do have my 60,000 word romantic suspense novel to finish. (Synopsis/excerpt HERE.)

So it's not like I'm gonna be sitting around, twiddling my thumbs throughout November.

And as far as NaNo goes -- there's always next year....