Every year, our community theatre has one huge weekend where every cast member, parents, grandparents, children, and even some friends come help us make major changes. For this year’s production of Willy Wonka, this weekend was that weekend, when we move from our practice “stage” (an elementary school gym floor) to the real stage, at the district’s high school. Everything must be moved… from the set pieces to props to lumber and screws, nails and hinges.
This year, the move took 50 people, 2 box trucks, 1 pickup with a trailer, several pick-up trucks, and two trips. In just over an hour. We work well as a team, and in the weeks before the move, much organization takes place to ensure it can be done as quickly and efficiently as possibly.
The move is the easy part. From there, set construction begins. While we already have several key set pieces built, the major set work can not be done until after the move. For those of you unfamiliar with our shows, our sets our amazing. They take a lot of man-hours to engineer and design, and even more to build. We have been told that it would be worth the $10 ticket price just to see the sets.
This weekend, a 2-story platform was built, complete with stairs and an elevator. A footbridge was re-purposed from another show to fit our needs for this one, this time 4 feet taller with a staircase on either side. A chocolate river was constructed to run under the bridge (and a set of stairs). Houses and rooms were built on wheels so they could easily be moved on and off stage.
While all of this was going on, others were painting and dressing what was already constructed. People worked in shifts ranging from 4 hours to 12 Saturday and Sunday. This will continue, on a smaller scale, until Wednesday, when the majority of it will be done. Thursday, we are back to rehearsals.
As I sat and watched how quickly the sets were built, using well-designed plans, complete with pictures and measurements, I realized the importance of fully creating a setting before any real work begins.
Last week, I wrote a scene for my WIP that I absolutely loved. It was an emotional scene where the hero, Mac, was comparing his new home, a small, run-down fixer-upper, to his old home, an elegant McMansion. He was reflecting on how far he had come—how he had what he wanted, not what his ex-wife had wanted, a house he could make his home.
I was proud of the scene. It made me feel like I was finally getting somewhere, finally moving forward in the story.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to use it.
I am in the early chapters, just getting started on this story. I have all of my character profiles done (all seventy-five pages of them)and I have about half the book outlined, scene by scene.
Unfortunately, I haven’t taken the time to truly develop the setting. I was planning on doing that in tandem with writing.
An hour after I wrote the first chapter, I was researching the areas for my setting. I suddenly realized it wouldn’t work. In order to accommodate some of the essential elements of my story, I need to move the setting a few hundred miles south.
Here’s the problem—the style of home changes drastically by making that move. So, all of the comparisons go out the window. Oops.
That was obviously my fault. I knew I needed to develop the settings before I wrote too much. But I wanted to write, and short stories were no longer cutting it. So I wrote.
Unfortunately, I have hit the point where I can’t write any more until I have the settings fully developed. And now I am overwhelmed.
With my first book, I used a real city, one I was familiar with. I had very little to plan.
This time, I am using a fictional beach town, set in a real state. I am thrilled with the flexibility, but worried that I will take it too far and lose the realism.
I have done a lot of research, and I am comfortable with the area I have chosen. I have information on the typical real-estate, popular trends, etc.
Here is my challenge: how much can I create, and how much needs to be real? At what point do I cross the line from “creative license” to Willy Wonka’s “Magic Lands,” which wouldn’t be a great fit for my contemporary romance.
In other words, how do you make it real, believable, and interesting, without taking it too far and over the top?
I spent the end of last week working on developing the various settings, and will do the same this week as much as I can (Pookie has vacation, so it is harder for me to get much done). I think I have a good balance, but I would love to hear your thoughts. 🙂
How do you create your settings? How much do you plan, and how much do you create as you go? How do you keep your settings believable? Doesn’t ‘Magic Lands’ sound like a fun place to visit?