Aphelion Issue 189, Volume 18
October 2014
 
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Hello and welcome to the October issue of Aphelion Webzine!

Another month has gone by, much work has been done, and there is still so much left to do. The Holidays are beginning to rush forward into prominence once again. Northeast Georgia has entered into its normal Autumn free fall with wild abandon. The blistering heat of Summer is giving way to the almost comfortable coolness of Fall. I believe the first frost of our year is just around the corner. Georgia will pass from it's too hot to time to unpack the thermal underwear in the next few weeks. On the whole, life is pretty normal around here.

Before Winter's chill embrace clasps us once again in its uncomfortable grasp, we still have a little time to once again enjoy going outside. A few more weekends for cookouts, and then hello, Nanook!

Yeah, there was a real purpose in all the purple prose above. Among the tricks of the trade alongside character development set dressing, and engaging the full range of human senses is a little thing called setting. While it's easy to overdo or under use any of these, setting may well be the most easily fumbled. How does one describe the stage without having one's characters become lost in the details? How much is too much? Is there a minimum below which the story may as well happen in a blank white room? The answer all of these questions is, of course, yes.

Look, your basic plot and characters really set the pace for how much background information you need to include. That's also true of your preferred story length, and even the genre you're writing within. You can't waste wordage in a flash story with describing minute details of the weather, but in longer formats, you can play around a bit more. Of course you don't want to go all full-tilt it was a dark and stormy night... That's clearly the upper bar that no one wants to pole vault, as it were, but my point concerns the lower end of the scale. The hurdles, so to speak. The setting you choose casts effects on the actions of your characters, as well as their dialog. You can't tell a desert-crossing scene if you throw in how everyone has their umbrellas unfurled on account of monsoon season. Similarly, a scene set in the coldest depths of Winter wouldn't necessarily require someone off in the background selling beach blankets and sunscreen.

Of course, I'm exaggerating the contrasts. How else am I going to get the point across if I don't engage in a bit of reduction to absurdity? But the underlying truth is that setting is just as important as set dressing. Building the stage your characters strut and fret across is just as important as the props you use as set dressing for your characters to interact with. Your story sets the limits on each element of storytelling that you have to use. Too little and you're in that dreaded talking heads in a blank white room zone. Which might be fine if you're writing a music video for a New Wave band from the 1980s & '90s, but for a reader of fiction you stand the chance of losing their interest. If you use just a bit too much, you start straying over into comedy. That's a tightrope, sure enough, because if you stray further than the just enough to make it funny range, you get into the my prose is so purple that the vintage Grateful Dead posters on my wall just started glowing in the dark... phenomenon.

Creating the setting that you tell your story against takes practice. It's an art form all in and of itself, and setting, in this context, is different from world building. World building is the backdrop behind the stage, setting is the stage itself, set dressing is the props on your stage and the costumes your characters wear, and so on. These are a basic set of variables your composition needs to use as background behind the mid-ground stuff like sensory engagement, and the foreground stuff like plot and character development. Tightrope walking these elements of storytelling is something you have to put a lot of thought into to tell the precise sort of story you want to write. Choose wisely, Grasshopper...

Dan



BOILERPLATE:

First off, if you do the Facebook thing, feel free to join us on the Aphelion page there. The link is Aphelion Webzine. As an aside, the Editorial Mafia and I have found Facebook to be useful while we transition between e-mailing lists. Given our different locations and schedules, it's come in handy as a way to discuss production details of new issues. Sometimes there are several of us using Facebook at the same time, so it's almost like the old chat room days.

Dan's Music Page This is my promo page here at Aphelion. All the links below, and more information about the albums, are located here.

The Never Bank On A Learning Curve CD on the Create Space website. My first album, with a wide range of styles and genres, covering the past three years of my working with the MAGIX Music Maker programs.

The Second Helping CD on the Create Space website. My second album, with just as wide a range of different musical styles, showing just how much I've learned in the past three years.

Dan's Studio-D Page on the Bandcamp website. Digital downloads of the albums, or each individual song if you prefer it that way. Just click on the album cover thumbnails and you'll see a list of each song on the album. Next to the song titles are links to read the liner notes, or to download the individual song. You can listen to each song for free. There is also a link to download each entire album at one go. I cannot say enough about Bandcamp! This is an amazing website. I have Rob, and many other friends, to thank for finally talking me into checking it out.

Here are some links to pages I have up promoting my music. When my book comes out I'll add those links to the promotion page, too. So far, there are links on that page to the Create Space Preview songs, the Create Space page for each album, the Amazon.com listings, and the link to the digital downloads page.

And here's a link to my Sound Cloud page:

Dan's Sound Cloud Page where all my music has been stored for your free listening pleasure. These are not as high a quality recordings as the ones on the CDs or on Bandcamp. But SoundCloud does have the virtue of having everything collected together in one place.

Check those links out, buy a CD or download if you like what you hear. And once again, thank you for your time,

Dan all my music has been stored for your free listening pleasure. These are not as high a quality recordings as the ones on the CDs or on Bandcamp. But SoundCloud does have the virtue of having everything collected together in one place.

Check those links out, buy a CD or download if you like what you hear. And once again, thank you for your time,

Dan


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ON THE COVER

Title: Hubble's Sharpest View of the Orion Nebula
Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team