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Props vs. Scenery
When writing, one of the challenges is keeping track of all the stuff in a scene and then throughout the manuscript. Some things are just window dressings, like a pillow on a couch, and other things carry as much weight as a character from the beginning of a story to the end, for example the One Ring in “The Lord of the Rings”.
Good writing keeps track of all the “stuff” unlike a fight scene where you may end up with more (or less) opponents than you had at the start of the fight. Most “stuff” is quick and little more than set dressings. In “Used Tissues”, the flash from 1/17/2016, I have a couple-few inanimate objects: the used tissues, a pillow from the couch, the TV, and some schoolbooks. These were just pieces floating around giving a little more depth to the story. The tissues, even though they are an impetus to ignite the change, have no actual permanence. The schoolbooks appear more than once but are purely scene dressing.
The permanent object in the flash is the remote control. When I originally wrote the story, I just had the mother flick off the television. Then as the story developed, I realized I needed to show her teasing nature, not just tell you about it (show, don’t tell rule), so I decided she would take the remote control with her. But then I had a problem. I had her start with the remote control and had her leave with the remote control, but why wouldn’t the children notice her take it with her. What happened to the remote control inbetween? I needed to create a permanence. The remote control had risen from scene dressing to a full prop which needed to be tracked through the story.
So I added the sentence of the mother putting the remote control in her back pocket. Now the reader can track the remote control from the beginning of its existence in the scene to the scene’s end. How important is the sentence? Look over the flash again http://www.erinpenn.com/2016/01/flash-used-tissues/, but think about it without that middle sentence on the remote control. Are you more satisfied with the finish of the mother taking the remote control with her because of the sentence or does it not make a difference to you?
YOUR TURN (Comment below)
WRITING EXERCISE: Attempt a flash, 500 words or less, which has a prop you need to keep track of. An easy one is a gun or knife in a fight. If you have a present WIP, look over your scenes and see if you need to create of permanence of object in one.
READING EXERCISE: Think of a story where the location of the prop and tracking of the object was important.