Tag Archive - setting

Setting with a Purpose

Sad but true, setting and locale in novels is mostly ignored. It’s as if writers feel they must sacrifice attention to setting on the altar of getting the story moving, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Setting serves a number of very powerful, key functions in a novel’s scenes, and that’s why it’s an essential pillar of novel construction. Without setting, how can you have a story? Some (many) scenes I’ve edited and critiqued appear to be floating in space or some nebulous location. The writer seems so intent on conveying dialog or explaining about the characters that he forgets (or thinks it is unimportant) to mention where his characters just happen to be. Continue Reading…

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.

I spoke last time of exploring your character’s feelings and responses to setting, to make setting personal and dynamic in your novel, as well as to give it heart. There’s nothing more boring in a novel than a paragraph of dry narrative to describe each new place your character finds himself in (well, it’s up there with trite dialog). But this week I want to talk about boiling down the essence of a locale or setting in a scene, and Stein’s “envelope” really is the best way to do it. Continue Reading…

Setting Your Characters in the Proper Setting

During this year of delving into the heart of your story, I’ve only touched a little on setting. I haven’t been ignoring the topic, although by now you may have been wondering about that. Setting is so important to your book, and all too often writers practically ignore it in their quest to unveil a great plot or take the reader on a character’s journey.

But stop and think for a moment about yourself and the world you live in. Each moment you’re alive, you are interacting with your setting. At times, where you are is inconsequential and unimportant to what is going on in your life at that moment. You could be in a coffee shop, at the top of a mountain, or waiting at the dentist’s office to get your teeth cleaned and it wouldn’t matter in respect to what you may be going through, feeling, thinking, or desiring at the time. Much of our lives we are in mundane places, doing mundane things.

But do readers want to read about that? Do you recall what I said months ago about books that portray ordinary people? I said ordinary people are boring—and so are mundane, boring settings. No one wants boring. Continue Reading…

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