via Son of a Hoarder

Son of a Hoarder is high in detail, sense imagery…this piece of writing is a good example for anyone wanting to create a setting or atmosphere for a short story, novel, or even biography.

Why? Mario takes the time to layer one detailed or image filled sentence on top of another, telling the story through the progression of details. You don’t see much “He said”, or “He walked to the other side of the room and gazed at the window”, etc. Instead the story is revealed by the peeling away of setting. So the progression of the story is really the moment by moment changing of setting.

The advantage of telling a story by revealing the next detail / image instead of showing the characters through action is that the atmosphere dominates the piece. A disadvantage of this peeling away of the story through detail instead of forcing the story forward is that in formulaic popular fiction, the readers are looking for fast pace, action, strong forward force.

Still, the action oriented or suspense fiction author can much benefit from noting Mario’s imagery / significant detail / walk through the senses, to build a setting for his or her own fiction piece. Stephen King is someone who painstakedly builds details and imagery into an atmosphere where anything can happen.

Here’s an example from Mario’s draft. it’s a world we can visualize, touch, hear, taste. The details build one on top of another to create an atmosphere that is believable and pertinent:

The picture was taken in almost the same place as it was hung. It was framed in a red frame with a turquoise matte with a black inner core. He had told his friend Jeff Fleischmann, a framer, what colors and types of materials he wanted. He turned to his right, passing the bathroom door. He thought how as soon as he took a shower, he was sweating again, and his clothes seemed wet too because of the heat and humidity. Everything inside was white or glass.

I envy the pointed, poignant pen of an artist. I think this scene had quite a bit of action compared to the rest of the draft, even though the only action oriented sentence is how he turns to his right and passes through the bathroom door.

Does this mean your story has to be like Marios? No, but if you want strong and believable atmosphere in your fiction or biography writings, take a look at what Mario does here and aim for building your setting as he does; then add in the action when you’ve built the atmosphere intro a crescendo. Revisit this method if your story starts to sound dry and it will add depth and color and vitality to your story.

Donald Standeford

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