Segments in this Video

Importance of Landscape in a Story (02:40)


According to Janet Fitch, writers tend to focus on character and story but forget to create the world that makes the work believable. Readers believe characters who exist in a real world.

Fitch: Elements of Landscape (05:43)

Elements of landscape include time of day, quality of light, scent, vegetation, season, everything that is not human, and people who are not characters. Specifics of landscape give texture to novel.

Fitch: Three Types of Landscapes (01:42)

The three zones of landscape are based on scale: the big picture or master shot, the personal, and the intimate. Writers should have characters connect between the zones and use all three zones.

Fitch: Making Landscape Real (01:48)

To make a landscape real, writers should avoid static description or using “to be” verbs. Good description requires action verbs. Characters should interact with the landscape to make it real.

Tools for Creating Landscape (03:40)

Fitch recommends making lists of sensory descriptions and words that appeal to more than one sense for vivid descriptions of landscape. Writers should always be keeping notebooks.

Problems in Creating Landscape (06:30)

According to Fitch, the biggest problem in creating landscapes is the cliche. Writers should use fresh, original language to create their own images and not to borrow images and language of others.

Overcoming Cliches in Description (05:26)

According to Fitch, to avoid clichés writers should make a list of them, use metaphorical language, use synesthesia to describe senses, describe light, and have a painter’s vocabulary.

Landscape: Emotion, Character, and Mood (02:21)

Citing John Gardner’s “The Art of Fiction,” Fitch shares how landscape reveals emotion and character. The mood of the observer affects the description of the landscape.

Language of Objects (06:18)

Fitch uses objects to comment, contrast, or parallel things in a story. Objects can represent characters. Writers use objects to comment on the central action and mood of a story.

Imagining Landscape (04:22)

To describe a place a writer has never been, he must establish a sense of authority. Fitch uses maps, travel guides, the Internet, and photographs to learn place names, the weather, and geography.

Fitch: Landscape in Dialogue (04:27)

The key to using dialogue is to incorporate it with descriptions of landscape. Landscape is a timing device and amplifies or contrasts the dialogue. Landscape can be used to comment on dialogue.

Fitch Answers Questions About Writing (02:44)

Fitch makes brief comments on questions from the audience. The topics include creating a fictionalized town, using dialogue versus landscape, modeling characters on real people, and choosing a narrator.

Hall: Point of View and Voice (05:02)

Point of view and perspective are not the same thing. Sands Hall used three rotating narrators for an unfolding effect in “Catching Heaven.” Syntax and vocabulary need to fit the character.

O'Connor: Point of View and Voice (02:07)

Varley O’Connor uses her acting experience to decide on what point of view she will use and how she will create characters. Using a male narrator brought out different dimensions of her personality.

Koch: Point of View and Voice (06:38)

Using first person present tense becomes trite. Stephen Koch, like Aristotle, believes that action, not point of view, gives fiction its unity. Koch has used visual perspective and a confessional voice.

Byrd: Point of View and Perspective (03:11)

Max Byrd’s novel about Jefferson uses the same perspective as Gore Vidal’s “Lincoln: A Novel” by using a carousel of narrators to reveal the main character. This form works well for historical fiction.

Koch: Perspective (02:54)

When deciding on point of view, Koch uses the character who is the most reliable witness. His novel “Bachelor’s Bride” and nonfiction “Double Lives” both end with uncertainty about the deaths.

Hall: Point of View, Character, and Setting (03:11)

Hall’s choice of point of view is filtered through a mask or persona for the best point of view to develop character and place.

O'Connor: Voice and Perspective (02:17)

Each character’s perspective affects setting. Sigrid Nunez uses a variety of voices from her own multicultural background, giving a chorus effect with multi-perspectives.

Koch: Knowing His Characters (02:42)

Koch believes he knows his characters well. He feels them breathing beside him. He felt the cover for the paperback edition was exactly how he visualized the characters. He dreams about them.

Byrd: First Person Point of View (01:18)

Byrd believes that first person prevents writer’s block. Many writers begin with detective novels using first person. The detective is a surrogate storyteller. First person liberates the writer.

Hall: Developing Characters (01:47)

Creating characters is a process. Elizabeth George explains how she preps her characters in "Write On." Hall’s process begins with a sense of who the characters are. They develop through their actions.

O'Connor: Developing Characters (01:17)

O’Connor uses her acting experience to develop her characters. Once she has a solid foundation of who a character is, she works like a jazz musician by letting the unconscious take over to a point.

Koch: Developing Characters (01:50)

Koch first prepares groundwork for a character. He once used an artist friend as a model for his character. He later realized his unconscious transformed the character into someone else.

Choosing Point of View (04:32)

Each writer on the panel shares his or her own idea of when in a draft a writer should have settled on a point of view. Byrd points out that the first English novels always used first person.

Omniscient Point of View (01:54)

Koch integrates the omniscient point of view and the mind and voice of the book, an often neglected point of view, into the third person point of view in his novels.

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Writing the Novel

Part of the Series : The Path to Publication: Advice from Authors, Editors, and Agents
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In segment one of this volume, “Writing the Landscape,” Janet Fitch discusses landscape and how its use can distinguish professional writers from aspiring writers. In a clear and conversational style, she provides examples and recommends methods, tools, and exercises to help novelists elevate the level of their prose. In segment two, writers Sands Hall, Max Byrd, Varley O’Connor, and Stephen Koch present a wealth of information, humorously moderated by editor Andrew Tonkovich, on point-of-view. Topics such as the connection between POV and voice and how perspective, voice, and POV relate to character and place are included. (89 minutes)

Length: 89 minutes

Item#: BVL35086

ISBN: 978-1-4213-2813-3

Copyright date: ©2005

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.