Sunday, January 22, 2012

Idea Garage Sale: Atmosphere

Sometimes zeroing in on a weakness of your own and trying out ways to address it leads in fruitful directions. Sometimes it doesn't.

Take these notes to myself on the question of why I don't write atmospheric stories:

Q: What does one use atmosphere for, anyway? What's it's literary function?
A: To lift the reader out of mundane reality and create an escapist environment.

But that's not what I'm doing. I want to wake the reader up to the enchantment inside his mundane reality, to the wonderful things she is not aware of. I want to help them enjoy the lives they have or can make for themselves, not moon over distant and hopeless fantasies - silver Elven ships &C.

The place to play with atmosphere then would be in a wholly realistic story (or maybe there'd be some fantastic element in that the VP character would be an elf or something) in which nothing peculiar or unbelievable happened. The romantically fantastic domestic novel.

None of which gets me anywhere close to a story. But it articulates some of what I'm doing when I set my stories - as I always set my stories - in places as close to reality as I can get them. I live in a fantastic, atmospheric environment, and it bugs me when other people don't recognize this, so one of the things my stories do is show them that.

Last week, while waiting for the gamemaster to return with some misplaced notes, the residue of our gaming group was discussing accents, which somehow segued into two of us singing "Amarillo By Morning," and the third protesting vigorously. I countered that he was just jealous because we could sing Texas songs all day, and nobody ever made songs about his home state, New Hampshire. He had to concede the justice of this. It's not because New Hampshire is unworthy of songs, though. It's because too few songwriters are in touch with the songworthy elements of New Hampshire. That's true of every place that doesn't get into songs.

We should all do something about that for our own places.

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