Setting creates a mood.
She sat in the new McDonald's on Main and actually typed that sentence in order to better think about it.
Setting is mega-important to the reader and, ipso facto, to the writer. Chapter One: Time of day, what the sky looks like, is the air hot or cold, the ground wet or dry? Choose your words carefully and blah, blah blah.
Setting creates . . .
She sipped from her Diet Coke and stared at the opposite wall, which was emblazoned with a monster-sized glossy pic of an apple. She blinked and looked around, as though wakened from a dream, at the sand-colored walls, the spindly black stools, the elegant brown cloth window shades.
And she thought, “What in the pluperfect hell has happened to our McDonald's?”
(“Pluperfect” is a lush, gorgeous word. She typed that, too.)
This McDonald's, she thought, is where we used to hang out. Three kids and all their friends and a single mom who paid for Happy Meals with change out of a tip jar. The walls were red and yellow, then! Ronald himself grinned maniacally from a picture over the counter and nobody, nobody counted the freaking calories in the chicken mcnuggets. Those Happy Meals were absolutely grease-soaked. The air reeked of fryer oil, the floor was sticky as carnival taffy, and there were no window shades. The sky out that window was always shiny, hard blue as ceramic, and the people in here were happy, even if one of the kids dumped their pop-not-milk, because . . .
On the evening of December 31st, she tucked 2016 beneath her arm and gingerly traversed the basement stairs, dodging a pair of roller blades and a saggy salt bag that had not yet made its way to the softener. A little short of breath already – 2016 was heavy – and hampered by the brush of cobwebs across her face, she lugged the Years Gone By box from the shelf and straightened the crick in her back before opening the lid.
A smell like pumpkin innards – Halloween – rushed out at her and the pop of July firecrackers made her sit back on her heels. Frogs leaped amidst poinsettia leaves and cicadas croaked in time with the 9th inning roar at Wrigley Field. Moldy tennis shoes reclined alongside graduation gowns, flip-flops slapped in time with the snow shovel scraping the sidewalk.
Darker things, perhaps, residing at the bottom of the box. House fires and hospital stays, the funeral stink of blood lilies.
She tossed 2016 in and quickly closed the lid.
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