Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#atozchallenge: Setting by @GayDegani

Awarded the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize for her flash piece, “Something about L.A,” Gay Degani has had other stories nominated for Pushcart consideration. Pomegranate Stories, eight short pieces about mothers and daughters, is available at Amazon, her novel What Came Before is currently serialized online, and her linked stories are being published monthly in Pure Slush's print anthology, 2014-A Year in Stories.

2014: A Year In Stories
A twelve-volume anthology published by Pure Slush Books

Image by Gay Degani
I have always loved reading stories with a strong sense of place, so when I started writing myself, it didn’t surprise me that place came first to mind.

Where is this going to happen? What does it look like? What time of day? What month? For me, it feels like a natural beginning because place is visual and writing takes place in the mind before it takes place on the computer screen. I need that grounding before I can move forward with the action of the story.

With the "linked stories" project I'm working on for the Pure Slush 2014: A Year in Stories project, the time frame immediately focused me on setting. The stories needed to be told in present tense on a specific day of every month during the year 2014. Weather had to conform to the time of year and the events of each story had to be separated by roughly thirty days. With these parameters in play, the place evolved almost unconsciously as I began considering what I wanted to do.

Things in my own surroundings began suggesting themselves to me. Place came out of my late afternoon walks in my neighborhood. I noticed how several houses along one street didn't seem to belong in the same neighborhood, yet stood side by side.

I live in a community that began developing in the 1890s. The architecture is dictated by past purposes of the streets I walk by: small wooden bungalows that must once have been vacation cabins, mansions hidden behind condominiums, Victorians, Mediterraneans, Craftmans, all lining the same street.

Seeing these homes in the growing gloom of my walks began to stir up scenarios I could incorporate in this series of stories. I followed that impulse and my characters began to take shape.

Like with everything in writing, tapping into that deep, inner part of ourselves and then trusting it will take us where we want to go, pays off.

Has a place ever inspired a story for you? What role does setting play in your writing?

~ * ~

Thank you, Gay, for this fantastic insight into the importance of giving setting its place in storytelling. Thank you, readers, for the visit, and happy A-to-Z-ing!


  1. Places get me all the time. Last June, I wandered with a friend in her hometown public gardens - a lush and not overly structured place. Several spots reminded me of a location in my fantasy series, and there was a dogwood tree that suggested the shape and bearing of a flower that is vital to the culture of one social group.

    Years ago, my husband and I lived and worked in Yellowstone. One day, we hiked the Old Faithful Overlook Trail. When we reached the top of the ridge, with the sweep of land, mostly wild, beneath us, and a rock outcropping filled with chattering marmots behind, I knew I had found the home of that social group.

    I always trust those instincts. =)

    1. Even in a post on a blog, you manage, Shan, to evoke the places you write about. Love the dogwood shaped like a flower. Reminds me of Daphne turning into a laurel tree. Thanks for reading and I hope you can find time to check out the "2014" series from Pure Slush and maybe my novel too.

  2. HI Guilie and Gay - I seem to revert to childhood and remember the days in Cornwall at various places, but then I'd remember our family home to the west of London ... and could incorporate that too - but I doubt I'll write a story as such .. but the descriptive ideas sit in my head ...

    Story telling has so many anchors .. lovely to read this - cheers Hilary

    1. Hilary, you mention Cornwall and though I've never been there, reference to it always conjures up the gothic romances I read years ago. How I loved them and how I imagined I would love the wildness of Cornwall. Thanks so much for reading this and I want to encourage you to write down all those descriptive stories as you know them and don't worry about how they could be stories. Just get the words going and you might be very surprized!

  3. Great post, Gay and Guilie. Setting works for both of your story cycles in 2014. I really look forward to your days as I can count on a strong story experience each time, and setting is always a big part of it.

    1. Thank you so much, Stephen, and can I say I feel honored by your words and by the fact that you're a friend. The treasure I will take from the "2014" project are the writers I've met and gotten to know. You, dear sir, are one of the diamonds.

  4. I went into a museum lately, and I came out of it with three new stories simmering in my brain.
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

    1. Debi, it's funny how that works. I too love going to museums because I never know what I will see that will stir me to write. Get those down in what ever form they've presented themselves to you. It's terrific to let them simmer, but not too long because something else may distract you, but if you even have fragments written down, I promise you will get to them sooner or later. I have a whole folder of fragments on my computer and it's surprising how often I end up putting two or three ideas together.

  5. Really interesting piece.
    I use the idea of place to help singers get into a song - what time of year is it, where are you, inside or outside, what have you on your feet, is it day or night … once a picture comes into your mind's eye then the story of the song takes on a different meaning.
    Fil A to Z ing along at
    Fil's Place - Old Songs and Memories

  6. Place is usually the first that comes to me, too.


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