Friday 22 November 2019

Nanowrimo Writers' Workshop #8

This #Nanowrimo Writers' Workshop was on creating settings. We discussed the use of descriptive language which paints a picture in the mind of a reader.

We discussed what settings mean - both location and time. Children often confuse setting with specifics - morning, evening or home, school. We talked about how an author can use a general or broader location and time and vary the specifics within the novel.

The importance of research was emphasised. Children brainstormed all the different variables they'd have to research to build authenticity - from the language, social mores, government types, physiques, history to food, religion, dress. An imaginary setting allows the author to create all these.

The importance of localisation came up.  Most Indian children of this background read American or British authors. They are heavily influenced by these books. Which means their own writing is usually set in the US, with White American characters, with names like Jack, Tom or Jill in a setting which is completely alien to these kids. Not only does the writing sound false, a greater problem is the lack of representation of kids like themselves. "How many times have you encountered kids like yourselves in books- with names like yours?" I asked. "You have a wonderful opportunity to create a narrative which hardly exists - with kids eating sambhar or biryani, playing on a beach with salt spray stinging their faces, watching the coconut palms swaying gently in the breeze" Hopefully the message will sink in.

We went on to discussing how settings can create moods or reveal facets about their characters.  Kids got to speedwrite descriptions of various settings and read them aloud. They went onto writing out settings from the different parts of their own novels.

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