April 21, 2020 at 8:49 am #110590Daeus Lamb@daeus-lamb
What does The Promise of Jesse Woods teach us about worldbuilding?
👖 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢April 21, 2020 at 11:14 pm #110749corky@corky
I am afraid of being off the mark on the topic of world building, but Daeus’s question got me thinking about Dogwood. I have a general layout and picture in my mind of the location of Matt’s grandmother’s house, the hill behind it, the suspicious neighbour’s (sorry about spelling, I’m Canadian) house across the street, and the gravel road out front that, to the left, leads to Jesse’s shack and the Blackwood farm, and further on, I learn later, around corners and forks in the road, to Jesse’s cousins’ homes. This area is rural, and to the right, an easy bicycle ride away, is the “commercial centre (again, spelling Canadian)” of Dogwood, with everything you need and nothing more. Blake’s grocery store is like the store in my childhood where I ran barefoot down the street with my nickle to buy a fudgesicle (showing my age, now). Skimming through the story, I see details, like the walnut trees lining Matt’s grandmother’s driveway and Matt’s Toyota hatchback pulling into the driveway some 10 years later.
All this isn’t the least of it. The description evokes a mood, and the mood fills in deeper with knowledge of the people living in Dogville and the conspiracy of discrimination against the dirt poor and non-white.
The story has a time dimension too, of the town changing over time, becoming marginally more modern. Jesse and Earl, though arch-enemies in childhood, are cut from the same cloth, and well-suited to a life together as mature adults.
I think there must be a parallel with Matt’s apartment in Chicago, with the noisy elevated track outside and the well-meaning Cabrini-Green housing project beyond it. But I’ve run out of energy and time (dinner’s ready!). However, I’d like to say how much I enjoyed the ending of Jesse’s Promise, especially the way the author, Chris Fabry, tied the whole story up by comparing Matt’s letting go of Jesse to the life she chose, out of love, to Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, out of love for us that our sins may be forgiven.April 22, 2020 at 6:19 am #110755Taylor Clogston@taylorclogston
@corky Interesting that you got a great sense of everything’s place from the description. To me, the individual locations weren’t tied together very strongly, and I felt like there was a ton of wasted potential for setting-as-character (in my opinion, the book needed to be about 30%-50% longer). In any event, I definitely don’t think you’re off the mark regarding worldbuilding!
Everything that exists in the story had to be chosen to be depicted over everything else, and I think it’s a job Fabry did tolerably well. I imagine if I was a baseball fan, its motif would have grounded the story strongly in events I was somewhat familiar with. As it stands, the bits like the first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, Matt wanting to learn to play Elton John, and the absence of Matt’s draft dodging brother give great grounding details.
"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and MargaritaApril 22, 2020 at 4:14 pm #110798Daeus Lamb@daeus-lamb
A couple things I liked was all the different specific songs it mentioned and how the people around town missed their children that had moved to the cities.
👖 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢April 22, 2020 at 6:49 pm #110818Isaiah@allertingthbs
Something interesting that the author seems to do in this book is instead of painting us a picture of the places Matt encounters, we learn about them as he sees them.
Chris Fabry could have introduced Dogwood something like this: “Dogwood stretched out ahead of us like the fold of a blanket thrown lazily across an untidy bed. Stores hap-hazardously dotted the sides of a main strip…” Readers can be given a clear description of a location, cementing it in our minds as we await the arrival of main characters. This tactic has the advantage of giving us something like an establishing shot; it contains the important details and gives us an idea of the intended feel the author tries to convey.
In this situation we encounter Dogwood at the same speed Matt does. Seeing each individual house as he sees them, traveling through town as he does, and meeting people as he meets them. This creates a different feel as we get emotional feedback from Matt as he processes these new experiences. One of the downsides, unfortunately, is that we can sometimes not have a clear “map” of a location if each stopping point isn’t clearly ties together. As @taylorclogston said, this seems to be the case here. It’s a little difficult for me to envision how exactly Dogwood is laid out and what the proportions are. I imagine if I were to have grown up in a similar place, like @corky, it may be easier for me to relate.
One thing that this story does quite consistently so far is drive home the sense of having distance between people. Whether it’s the economic distance between Jesse and Matt, physical distance between so many as @daeus-lamb mentioned, or even the time distance between Earl and Matt when he returns, we are given a real feeling of how these characters are impacted. We learn to appreciate the people we have in our lives now as they might not be there forever.
"Only a Sith deals in absolutes"
-Quipmaster 2005May 3, 2020 at 3:01 pm #111320JennytheFaun@jennythefaun
I’m really late to this discussion, and for the most part I’d just second others’ answers. I’m somewhere between @corky and @taylorclogston when it comes to how connected the places in Dogwood felt. I pictured some connections between specific locations, but for the most part I didn’t have a strong sense of Dogwood’s real size or proportions. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if that makes sense in the sections coming from 13 year old Matt. Some kids seem to have their bearings really well, but I for one had a pretty fuzzy sense of real distance or connections between places before I started driving.
Again, I really liked how many details there were that grounded me in the time and place. I wish more fantasy books included details that set readers at a specific point in the fictional world’s timeline, then showed us what the progression of that time looked like. Too many fantasy books give me a feeling of “a long time after the vaguely ancient stuff happened, this story took place.”
"...by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."
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