• NaPoWriMo Interview: MrNumbers & Corejo on Setting & Description

    "The scientific probability of me being shippable with everypony appears to be exactly 108.5%!"

    For the halfway point of NaPoWriMo, I decided that you guys deserved something extra. An extra person in fact! Continuing what I started with Monochromatic on Characterization, both MrNumbers and Corejo are here to talk about Settings & Descriptions!

    I’m sure many of you know MrNumbers from his smash-hit steampunk AU, The Mare Who Once Lived on the Moon, or perhaps one of the best Twilight and Pinkie fics I’ve ever read, Passion and Reason. A powerhouse of FimFiction, MrNumbers is uniquely qualified to talk about what he calls Scale.

    Below the break, you'll find MrNumbers talk about scale and vampire hunters, plus Corejo’s brilliant perception talk starring everyone’s favorite other former-student-of-Celestia, Sunset Shimmer!

    Scale is about how to make the little things big and important, how to make the big surreal things feel grounded and intimate. 

    Novel Idea:
    So the goal is to make aspects of the story relatable?

    Not quite. It's about balancing immersion and impact. It's that feeling you get when you're fully absorbed in a setting and it feels 'lived in.’

    Novel Idea:
    I see. It’s more about making the world real to the reader through both details great and small.

    Yes. Knowing when to use which and why.

    Novel Idea:
    How do you normally approach scale in your stories?

    If you're telling an important detail about the world, tell it through a character's eyes. How it affected them, what impact it had, ground level it. If you want to explore a character, show what impact they've had on the world.

    Novel Idea:
    Can you give an example of both?

    If there's a great big war going on in your universe, don't describe the big battlefield of corpses and gunshots. Talk to the widow back home, how she lost her husband, how little any of it mattered to her. 

    If you want to show a badass vampire hunter, don't show him doing sick nasty backflips never taking a scratch. Show him running a soup kitchen in a church full of homeless people he'd saved from being feeding stock. Show that church existing, show a large threat declaring that ground off-limits, carve graffiti in a dead language on the side of its walls declaring the place off-limits.

    it's an extension of show-don't-tell. But it's not enough to know to show. it's knowing what to show

    If an event is big, tie it to a person.

    If a person is big, tie it to the world.

    Thank you, MrNumbers, for some awesome practical advice on how to make the world real. More than anything, it’s the details that make the world come alive and these tools are perfect for creating those details, both big and small!

    "The TwiLuna shall last forever!"

    Next, we have Corejo, known far and wide for his classic slice-of-life comedy Reading Rainbow (which shockingly does not involve LeVar Burton), his award-winning Only, Only, Only You, a rabid eternal dedication to one Princess of the Night, and his willingness to actually edit a story involving Zecora. 

    Seriously. Editing Zecora is a nightmare. He still did it. Even tried to teach me about rhyming meter. Poor guy. 

    Novel Idea:
    You said you had some thoughts about show and tell. Why don’t you share them with us?

    How about just one big explanation-integrated example?

    Okay, so, say you’ve decided to finally confess your undying love for Sunset Shimmer. (We'll roll with her because I've been on a kick lately.) Pony form, of course, because humans are gross.

    Novel Idea:
    For the record, Corejo chose Sunset Shimmer. I had nothing to do with it. And he’s not describing me! 

    Anyway, we know how you feel about the subject: knees weak, mom’s spaghetti and all that.  You’ve gone over it in your head a million times.  You ask her out, she says sure, and now suddenly you’re going to go on a date with her, oh my gosh.

    She probably doesn’t know it’s a date yet, does she?

    It’s okay. You’ll figure it out as you go, right?  You always do. You keep telling yourself that as you get ready. Internal monologue is good for succinctly establishing emotions and reader mindset, and can act as transition points for actions/paragraphs so that you can get to the important stuff quickly.

    So anyway, there’d be a scene break just there, and now you’re sitting at a restaurant with a fancy name.  You make sure to include the fancy name in a somewhat esoteric fashion, because it makes an immediate and impactful statement on the importance of this date with almost no narrative baggage.  

    You’re waiting for her, because you told her you’d meet her there and everything between then and now wasn’t important so you didn’t include it in the story. Maybe you’re sweating, because of how nervous you are, and body language like that is good for underlining the tone of a scene and transition to the next paragraph.

    How about descriptions of this place? The decorations are nice, you guess. It’s pretty upscale, but you don’t really bother describing it outside of one or two big things like the crystal chandelier or the napkins folded to look like swans at every table, because it’s all just window dressing for your narrative and you don’t want to bog it down with unimportant information. The real meat of the story is Sunset Shimmer, so you gloss over most of the fluff until she arrives.

    And hot damn, does she arrive.

    Just look at her as she walks through the door. That dress she’s wearing is important because she’s the focal point here, and your readers need a vivid picture: a scarlet dress with glittering sequins all pulled up over one shoulder.

    Look at those golden bangles around her front hoof. You swear they catch the chandelier’s light just right, because callbacks to other things in your narrative can add subtle impact. She’s got her mane in a ponytail that drapes over her bare shoulder, and that little lock of mane over her eye acts as the cherry on top now that you’re done describing her physically.

    She hasn’t noticed you yet, so now’s a good chance to point out something integral to her character that physical traits could never convey and thereby elevates her above other ponies in your eye—that little blank-but-observant expression she sometimes wears that you love so much, because you’re always curious what’s running through that beautiful mind of hers. It adds an air of mystery to her character for the reader to latch onto and wonder alongside you, because don’t forget: all this description is about pulling your reader in and loving her as if they were in your horseshoes.

    She sees you at your table and smiles. It’s a smile that gets your heart racing time and again, but you describe the smile itself as nothing more than that, since you’ve tangentially described it through how it makes you feel, and everything else has already built up enough anticipation for the first dialogue drop.

    “Hey,” she says.

    And then the story would continue. So yeah. There’s a lot of different ways to approach a situation, and these are some of the things I think about and the reasoning behind how I approach descriptions.  Hope they help!

    Yeah, none of you are going to believe me, but I swear he chose Sunset, not me! 

    Bah, I knew you wouldn’t believe me.

    Corejo gives us some further amazing examples of what to focus on, when and even more, why. I’ve read plenty of stories, both original and fanfic, where the author may have fallen a little too much in love with his world. *cough* Tolkien *cough* The key really is to make it relevant, not just to the reader, but the character seeing the world!

    If you haven’t had the pleasure, make sure to go check out both MrNumbers and Corejo’s stories! And if you missed the epic interview with Monochromatic (whose stories you definitely have to read), you can find it right here!

    I’ll see you next week for the next installment of our NaPoWriMo Interviews!

    -Novel Idea