Tag Archive - setting

Masterful Setting Description Part 2

Setting description in most novels is the weakest element. As with character description, many writers don’t want to bother describing the setting. Or they don’t understand how vitally important it is, in order to paint a sensory picture of where characters are so that readers can feel as if they are right there with them, experiencing the action alongside them.

That’s hard to do if there is no setting; in many scenes I critique, the characters seem to be floating in a black void of nothingness. Which would be fine if that were the intent of the author. But, sad to say, the writer is probably assuming her readers are picturing the setting via some ESP into the author’s mind.

Probably the most prevalent reason for not writing great setting description is the author doesn’t know how. And yet . . . there are countless novels with beautiful setting descriptions. The whole key to becoming a masterful writer is to study masters of writing. And that’s what we’ve been doing in this series. Continue Reading…

A Look at Masterful Setting Description

Masterful writing must seep into every corner of a novel. We looked briefly at the description of characters in the last few posts, mostly drawing from just one novel of James Lee Burke’s. I could easily write a year’s posts highlighting masterful writing from any one of his novels. And in the series, I’ll be pulling more examples from his books.

When we talk about description, we’re covering wide territory. Narrative is, essentially, description, and via narrative we describe characters, setting, situations, and insights.

As we saw in those examples from Burke’s novel Wayfaring Stranger, description limited to merely physical components only goes so far to shine a light on the POV character’s personality. Every bit of narrative description needs to be purposeful in order to be masterful.

Yes, what a character notices about another’s hairstyle or clothing can bring out the POV character’s tastes and opinions, but there is so much more that great description can accomplish, and few writers think carefully about how to wield description in a powerful way.

When description is discussed, usually character and setting are the two most obvious novel components of concern. Every time your POV character moves into a new space—walks out a door into the outdoors, enters a building—some description is needed. Continue Reading…

Less Is More When It Comes to Setting

On Throwback Thursday, we’re looking at excerpts from past posts on Live Write Thrive.

Today’s post is from A Peek inside the Envelope:

Sol Stein, the famous editor, author, and writing instructor, has a very short chapter in his classic book Stein on Writing that he calls “Creating the Envelope.” As I looked through my numerous books on writing craft, I drifted toward his book (which happens a lot), and was reminded again of the best advice to give writers regarding setting details.

Here’s what he says: “Writing fiction is a delicate balance, On the one hand, so much inexperienced writing suffers from generalities. The writer is urged to be specific, particular, concrete. At the same time, when the inexperienced writer gives the reader detail on character, clothing, settings, and actions, he tends to give us a surfeit, robbing the reader of one of the great pleasures of reading, exercising the imagination. My advice on achieving a balance is to . . . err on the side of too little rather than too much. For the reader’s imagination, less is more.” Continue Reading…

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