The Importance of Story Setting by Gordon Chaplin

Gordon-Chaplin-Credit_George-Bouret-featured-113x113

 

 

 

 

“On Saturday afternoon Billy Buck, the ranch-hand, raked together the last of the old year’s haystack and pitched small forkfuls over the wire fence to a few mildly interested cattle. High in the air small clouds like puffs of cannon smoke were driven eastward by the March wind. The wind could be heard whistling  in the brush on the ridge crests, but no breath of it penetrated down into the ranch-cup.” –John Steinbeck, The Leader of the People. (1937)

Gordon Chaplin writes: Now that is powerful writing. So there’s the setting of the story. I’ll never forget it, though its characters and plot have faded in my mind and it’s only through the setting that they can be recalled. The setting never gets in the way. It is the way of the story.

I first read Steinbeck’s Cannery Row in high school, too, and was mesmerized by its mythical setting among the sardine canneries of Monterey. The book was published in 1945. When I found myself in college in the bay area in the seventies, I made a pilgrimage. The setting sets the stage for what comes next and almost determines it.

In the next paragraph we encounter a black cypress tree full of white pigeons so we know we’re somewhere near the California coast. The hills around the ranch-cup are “washed with lean March sunshine. Silver thistles, blue lupines and a few poppies bloomed among the sage bushes.” The poppies are another giveaway. They are the California state flower.

“Jody plodded up the hill toward the ridge top. When he reached the little cleft where the road came through, the afternoon wind struck him and blew up his hair and ruffled his shirt. He looked down on the little hills and ridges below and then out at the huge green Salinas Valley. He could see the white town of Salinas far out on the flat and the flash of its windows under the waning sun.” Not too far away is the Pacific coast, where Jody’s grandfather, who’s coming to visit, lives and looks out, dreaming of his days as a pioneer leading the people west across the country. He can go no further.

*****This guest post on Writer’s Digest is by Gordon Chaplin. Chaplin is the author of the novel Joyride and several works of nonfiction, including Dark Wind: A Survivor’s Tale of Love and Loss and Full Fathom Five: Ocean Warming and a Father’s Legacy. His latest novel, Paraiso, is now available. He lives with his wife and daughter in New York City and Hebron, New York. Visit him at gordonchaplin.com and follow him @Gordon Chaplin.

 

A Tuesday Review: The Son of Nepal by J.J Sylvester (Book 1 of the Sons of Thunder)

Visit J. J Sylvester’s website and see a sample of his books: via  https://theeverplanes.com/2017/04/23/the-son-of-nepal

5 Stars!  This intriguing novel, The Son of Nepal, by author J.J Sylvester, is a fascinating and uniquely beautiful story. It is told with a Middle Eastern flair for story-telling, that I found utterly enchanting. When a novel can transport the reader to a different place and time – that is extraordinary. It is beautifully written, with a lush cadence like prose that moves brilliantly through the entire novel.
Johannan, our hero, is very brave in his pursuit to find a cure for his beloved’s blindness and gives himself over to be used by a Great Spirit, such is his desire to return the gift of sight to his beloved. What is Johannan to learn from his quest, as he searches for months on end to find the magical cure, but only a true heart, he has been told, will the Great Spirit choose to grant Johannan’s wish. Johannan suffers great hardship in his pursuit to find a cure for his beloved, and therefore, he should be rewarded, shouldn’t he?
Will the parables this novel evokes ring true or will they not? We are often told: be careful what you wish for, true love conquers all, think before you leap, and everything comes with a price!” What price will Johannan pay or will the Great Spirit, bestow on him the happy life that Johannan has sacrificed so much to achieve for his beloved?         Johannan’s story is powerful and is so meaningful, even about our own lives, that we should take heed, for we are vulnerable as well. Is what we wish for honorable and good? It is only in our hearts, that will it ring true. I highly recommend The Son of Nepal.

The Importance of Story Setting by Gordon Chaplin

Gordon-Chaplin-Credit_George-Bouret-featured-113x113

 

 

 

 

“On Saturday afternoon Billy Buck, the ranch-hand, raked together the last of the old year’s haystack and pitched small forkfuls over the wire fence to a few mildly interested cattle. High in the air small clouds like puffs of cannon smoke were driven eastward by the March wind. The wind could be heard whistling  in the brush on the ridge crests, but no breath of it penetrated down into the ranch-cup.” –John Steinbeck, The Leader of the People. (1937)

Gordon Chaplin writes: Now that is powerful writing. So there’s the setting of the story. I’ll never forget it, though its characters and plot have faded in my mind and it’s only through the setting that they can be recalled. The setting never gets in the way. It is the way of the story.

I first read Steinbeck’s Cannery Row in high school, too, and was mesmerized by its mythical setting among the sardine canneries of Monterey. The book was published in 1945. When I found myself in college in the bay area in the seventies, I made a pilgrimage. The setting sets the stage for what comes next and almost determines it.

In the next paragraph we encounter a black cypress tree full of white pigeons so we know we’re somewhere near the California coast. The hills around the ranch-cup are “washed with lean March sunshine. Silver thistles, blue lupines and a few poppies bloomed among the sage bushes.” The poppies are another giveaway. They are the California state flower.

“Jody plodded up the hill toward the ridge top. When he reached the little cleft where the road came through, the afternoon wind struck him and blew up his hair and ruffled his shirt. He looked down on the little hills and ridges below and then out at the huge green Salinas Valley. He could see the white town of Salinas far out on the flat and the flash of its windows under the waning sun.” Not too far away is the Pacific coast, where Jody’s grandfather, who’s coming to visit, lives and looks out, dreaming of his days as a pioneer leading the people west across the country. He can go no further.

*****This guest post on Writer’s Digest is by Gordon Chaplin. Chaplin is the author of the novel Joyride and several works of nonfiction, including Dark Wind: A Survivor’s Tale of Love and Loss and Full Fathom Five: Ocean Warming and a Father’s Legacy. His latest novel, Paraiso, is now available. He lives with his wife and daughter in New York City and Hebron, New York. Visit him at gordonchaplin.com and follow him @Gordon Chaplin.