MAKING SETTING INTO A CHARACTER
Posted on March 30, 2016
I wanted the magical crew of Here Is Where I . . . to set their magic trap in an interesting locale. At first, I thought of a Chuck E. Cheese-style location, but nixed that as I didn't want to jump on the Five Nights At Freddy's bandwagon. I then went to a putt-putt course, one abandoned and in disrepair. I began writing the chapter with the mission of sprinkling the description through some straightforward character observations alongside reveals that are tied to the actions of the characters.
This first segment is a mix of character observation with interaction in the setting.
I pull into the empty gravel parking lot five minutes later. Wonder Putt Golf closed down almost a year ago and the putt-putt course is a complete wreck. Weeds have sprouted up everywhere and the moat around the castle is filled with algae.
Located on the southern outskirts of town, it's pretty secluded. A long berm overrun with tall yellow grasses instead of the immaculate landscaping the owners had paid a pretty penny to install keeps the eyes of anyone passing by on the road from seeing what we are planning. A few months back, some teens held a rave here. The chain-link fence around the course now is the result of that illegal gathering.
I look out at the mish-mash of themes, The Wild West meets King Arthur. What a weird business gamble. One hole you're shooting you ball through saloon doors and past the skirt of a dance hall girl and the next your putting by an oversized Excalibur jammed into a boulder painted more cherry red than brown or gray.
Howie pulls up next to me, nudging his front bike tire into my back tire. "Spoke to a Brandon Thomas at the end of the day. He used to work here. Gave me a few details that might be useful. Did you know they were trying to build a transparent tunnel where golfers could walk through underwater. It never worked out. Kept leaking." He points to a maintenance shed. Bet they have that in there if they haven't scrapped it."
"How's that going to help us?"
Howie hops off his bike and walks toward the small hut where you pay to get in. "I don't know. Maybe we fling the sections of tubing at the baddies and they get stuck in them. Don't get mad at me. If we're going to actually fight monsters, it helps to know the battlefield." He huffs and walks down the path leading to the first hole.
Later in the scene, a quirky observation grounds the locale. I like when characters make disquietingly normal observations. It makes the outlandish magic that transpires in the location later feel even more of a spectacle.
The three of us walk by the cashier hut. Oddly enough, there's still a large basket filled with golf balls of every color along with a small wooden box filled with tiny pencils. A pull-down metal gate has kept these items safe from vandals, but I can see where the lock has been hammered at a few times. It's still in place, but it's definitely worse for wear.
And here's another bit of setting where the character's actions review more of the golf course features.
I spy Bri and Mason over by the moat. Mason is working a board loose from the drawbridge. His skin is the same dark wood coloring as the long board he's attempting to extract.
At this point, I drew a crude map of the general areas in the golf course. Merlin's Forest takes up the first five holes and features a putt through the rock holding Excalibur prisoner. Next, four holes within the castle ends the medieval theme. The Back Nine are all about the Wild West. There are two holes between two gunslingers about to have a shootout on the main street.Golfers then navigate through three holes in a saloon and then onto two holes amid cowboys riding horses as they try to get control of a stampede of steer. The funny thing about this is that there are three horses, two with riders and one without. The owners ran out of money and never commissioned the third cowboy. The same unfinished fate happened to the stampede as well. They also have room for more cattle, but the actual stampede consists of two steer and one is only half constructed. Finally, the last two holes are through an uninspired desert landscape filled with stubby cacti and a rickety rattlesnake that tries to eat your ball as it rolls past.
Anyway, not sure how much of the above paragraph will make it in, but my intent is to weave it into the narrative as they construct their trap and when the trap gets sprung. We shall see. it feels ambitious and complex, but I'm up of the challenge.
And, yes, one of my secret desires as a child was to design the ultimate putt-putt course. I even got my wish in my teen years when we made a two-hole golf course in the back room of the grocery store I worked at through high school and college. Made it using the green tarp that use to be the bedding for many displays of random fruits and such. Boys will be boys.
Sadly, nothing compares to the courses my parents took us to in Ocean City, Maryland in the seventies and eighties. Pirate ships, a circus, a big castle and jungle them if I am remembering correctly. Of course, I'm recalling them from how I remembered them as a child. Maybe they weren't as nifty as I thought. Who knows, but I would certainly love to play in the one I created for this book.