Monday, February 6, 2012

Context in Stories

You may have noticed that I've been quiet. I even missed the last Whatever Wednesday.  My writing group, Social Writers Assistance Group, is doing a major writing event that is keeping me busy.  We are doign what we call SWAGNoWriMo. It is a variation of NaNoWriMo with two major differences. First, the month of February is picked because of the lack of major holidays involving family. It also is in the middle of winter when there are less events going on. The other difference is the goal system. SWAG unanimously agrees that the concept of completing a novel in a month is not appropriate goal settings. Each of us are setting our own personal goals based on our own expectations.

I will still be blogging. I have three movies to report so far, for February. I won't be getting to those until tomorrow at the earliest. I also need to stay on track of writing Whatever Wednesday posts.  These posts, while important, are not part of the point to this blog.  This blog is a place to discuss the craft of writing. Today, I'm going to talk about context of a scene.

Context is important. Take this photo of Risu. She is sitting on the floor, looking straight ahead towards the camera. Her expression is a strange one. The photo is provided with no context. Take a moment and think about this photo before reading on. What do you think is happening here? A photo without context is like a story without context. You can look at at it and analyze it, but you don't have a full understanding without the context.

With writing, a lack of context has some benefits to it, but only to a certain point. Many books open with the characters in the middle of the action. These stories start you without context. You may have a character running from something.  You don't know what this character is running from or why. As the story progresses, this event is put into context as more details are provided. This use of context helps build tension and captivate the reader.  Another technique with context is to only apply a part of the context to emphasize something specific.  In the movie Cloverfield, a giant monster is attacking the city. The creature is only partially exposed to the viewer and never, in the course of the film, do you learn why it is attacking, nor do you learn what this monster is. In the case of this story, the context of the monster is left mysterious so that the viewer focuses on the the real story, the characters trying to survive this horrific and mysterious event.

So, what is the context of the photo with Risu? I decided to lie down on the kitchen floor with the camera. Risu came over to me.  She was trying to figure out what I was doing on the floor when I snapped the photo. Now go back to that photo and take a look at it. Doesn't this make much more sense?  That is the importance of context.

No comments:

Post a Comment