Study Guide

Bird by Bird Part 1, Chapter 10

By Anne Lamott

Part 1, Chapter 10

Set Design

  • According to Lamott, every room is about memory, and a room gives us lots of information about ourselves and our characters.
  • In other words, getting the setting of your piece right will do a lot for you in a novel, just like in a movie.
  • What if you're writing about a setting you haven't experienced? Let's say your book is about a teenage billionaire, and unfortunately, you don't have billions just yet. Lamott says you can ask other people. You can just find a teenage billionaire and ask that person. Okay, that's not exactly what Lamott says, but it's close enough.
  • Lamott gives an example of how well this works. She once wrote a novel with a character who loved to garden. Lamott isn't super into gardening. In fact, she admits to having AstroTurf and plastic flowers in her front yard.
  • Lamott says that the garden is one of the two great metaphors for humanity, the other being the river. She knew she needed awesome gardening details to get that metaphor to work in her novel, but she wasn't learning too much about it from the AstroTurf. So, she called up a plant nursery and asked someone there to help her plan a fictional garden. The guy on the other end was very happy to do this for her, and he even let her call up every few months and ask what would be happening in the garden at that time.
  • Sure beats weeding.
  • Lamott did do some other research for her garden setting: she toured other people's gardens, bought a book, and asked lots of questions.
  • Believe it or not, all of this worked. When Lamott's book came out, people actually believed that she loved to garden.
  • So there you have it. You can fool everyone and get paid for it as a writer, and it's not even fraud. It's just part of the job.

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