I was going to write a Lifting the Lid article on this one, but I found it here and they’ve done a much better job than I would have. Telling details, folks: how do you pick yours?
I wouldn’t exactly call the Game of Shadows example ‘brilliant’, myself. To me it seemed a little obvious (though having an evil genius character who can foresee every possible permutation of any given situation will tend to trip the writer up if he or she is not careful). But the point still stands: set dressing should be there for a reason, not just to bore the reader.
I happened to catch a fascinating show the other day on the DIY Network – Hollywood Builders. They were following the construction of the sets for the new Total Recall movie, and I found it riveting (pun intended). Watching the set electricians wire up the set for futuristic lighting, watching CGI transform a “green screen” backdrop…it’s stunning. Really stunning. But I found the segment on set dressing most fascinating. The set dressers are responsible for making a set look like real by their attention to every conceivable visual detail. In this case, they were dressing the marketplace set – using everything from swimming goggles to a martini shaker to baskets of some kind of dried fruit. Will Douglas Quaid (the main character, played by Colin Farrell) interact with these tiny details? No. Most of these details simply form a backdrop – something the eye will catch in a glimpse as…
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