January 19, 2015

Setting is Important for a Smooth Read: My "Everybody Loves Raymond" Problem

We're always working toward that 'smooth read' -- writing that flows for its reader without a stumble.  Editing works to ferret out those bumps in content, and I admit that I write many things with my editor's voice in my head.  ("Stop using the word "that"!!!")

My Ray Barone House Photo vs. Interior Set Puzzle

Which brings me to "Everybody Loves Raymond," the classic television show that I can watch anytime I wish via my ROKU streaming TV device.

Here's the thing:  the exterior of the home that this series pops into view periodically in every episode for the Barone family home does not jive with the interior sets.  Just try and figure out how that garage in the show where Ray eavesdrops on his in-laws from the garage fits into the photo of that house.  Or consider how the back door fits into the kitchen set in the episode where Frank Paints the House.

These things bug me.  They cause me to break from watching the show to puzzling over why the setting isn't working in my head.  Sure, even if I'm watching these re-runs while I'm folding the laundry, it's enough to make me stop and ponder.

What I Learned: The Details of Setting are Important

What I'm learning, and wanting to share with you  Dear Reader, is this:  setting details can cause just as much of a problem in accomplishing a smooth read as misspelling or bad grammar or forgetting that a minor character had red hair or the villain is left-handed.  Something I had not considered much before now.

I didn't appreciate the importance of setting.  I thought I did.  I didn't.

It came to me last night as I was re-reading D is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton.  Once again, she demonstrated to me why she's one of my favorite authors as I read details about Kinsey Millhone's small garage apartment (the first one, pre-explosion).  Not only could I visualize it in my mind's eye, down to its 15 x 15 square foot dimension,  it jived with other descriptions of Kinsey's place (and her landlord's house with its connecting walkway) in other books in the series.

Not only is this a comfort to me as a reader, it is a relief.  I can depend upon Grafton to provide a stable setting, allowing me to move forward in the plot without stumbling over bumps in my head where something in the description is nagging at me to figure out what's wrong.

So, setting.  I get now why I need to map out my locations, scene of the crime, etc. in great detail.  It's smart to do, and plus, it sounds like fun.  

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