Two weeks ago, my introduction to fiction writing class discussed Janet Burroway's chapter on setting in her book Writing Fiction: "Far, Far Away." Great chapter. As always Burroway brings together the voices of many writers' fictions and many writers' notions about fiction writing. The element that my class struck on, perhaps the most important notion in the chapter (or even the whole book), is the simple statement: "Like dialogue, setting must do more than one thing at once" (173). A statement no less poignant for its simplicity. I would take it a step further even to say, "Every element of fiction must do more than one thing at once," but we'll take that up another time.
Today, I found this passage:
A landscape is constructed of geology, hydrology, and biology; yet it also includes the creations of the humans or other beings that inhabit and change the environment. Where nature and culture meet, they construct a landscape. This construction is most obvious in its physical manifestations, yet humans also determine its spiritual, social, and cultural meanings. Therefore, such a meeting between nature and culture may not always result in a physical creation. A vision of a place can also form within the mind, as humans reshape attitudes and values—thereby adding a mythic component to the meaning of an envisioned locale. In this fashion, a definition of place can be constructed externally by a larger culture. Occupants may still form their own ideas of a place, but an external construct based in ideals of the larger culture also encroaches on a place’s meaning. (Black 61)
Moving through air as sticky as the blood that moves inside her, same heat as the blood, the spit inside her, that moves inside, so that here in the dark she forgets where she ends, forgets where her skin stops, her skin does not stop, she is continuous. Moving through the weed smells, all the different green smells, single, then symphonic, single, then symphonic, the river low and mucky, a fertile rotty smell, low low dog days August smell. Not a bad smell, even though it is a just short of shit smell, but the river is not unloved for it, no, actually loved by Connie more tender for it, for its spoiledness, its helplessness, for how people have done it. Moving through the frog and bug burr, the chung, chung, chung, the tiny creature roar, layers of ankles and throats and wings, a sobbing mesh, the sound, too, an extension of her, the sex noise that shirrs the rind of her head, the kernel of her chest, again, Connie not knowing where her body ends, her not knowing again, and say it. Jolo. The name carries a kind of wet heat, a back of the mouth under the tongue, a you-know-what-I'm-saying-heat. You do. Carried in the syllables themselves. No, she wants to say to the cop, it's not like that, she tries to say. Fires are a dry heat, she says, and Jolo's wet, just say his name. Jolo.