Your story’s setting is much more than a GPS reading for your reader. Author and workshop guru extraordinaire, Mary Buckham, explains why setting plays a substantial role in enhancing a reader’s experience.
Let’s make this simple. Learning how to write is not the easiest game to play, but once you have the basics down—POV, plot, pacing, characterization—the fine-tuning should be easier. Right?
But it doesn’t have to be—hard that is. Most of us have not been trained to maximize Setting in our work so either we ‘get it’ or we don’t. I wrote the WRITING ACTIVE SETTING books so no writer has to stumble through or beat themselves over the head because they don’t ‘get it’.
It’s not rocket science. The craft techniques can be learned.
As I worked with writers all over the world on their own manuscripts I kept seeing folks struggling with how to use Setting without killing their pacing or making a reader want to skip the boring stuff and get on with the story. Time and again the same mistakes kept cropping up—Setting description that wasn’t moving the story forward, that created chunks of narrative which slows pacing, missing Setting so characters were free-floating in space—and the list went on.
* You need to create the world of your story.
* Each character in your story experiences the story world differently.
* Your story world involves more than one sense.
But, you’re thinking, you’re not writing an Urban Fantasy or Sci Fi novel. Doesn’t matter, your role as a writeris to create the world of your story so that the reader not only sees it, but experiences every important detail, regardless of what you’re writing.
Let’s revisit that word ‘important’. The details you choose to share must matter. (Yes, I’m hammering home this point.)
Do not focus your reader on something that is not pertinent to your story. Why? Because you’re wasting an opportunity to make your Setting work harder. Too much narrative, which is what Setting is in large chunks, slows your pacing.
You are not just working with objects in space—you’re creating a world. When we make characters interact with the space they’re in, we can make those few words work as more than just descriptors and turn them into ways the reader can get a grasp on the world as the character experiences it.
Your Character’s perceptions of your story world arewhat matters in your novel. You’re not writing about any living room, any small town, any large city; you are writing about a specific living room, a specific small town, a specific large cityand why those Settings matter to your character.
Think of youasthe author focusing the reader on what’s key about the world Setting of your POV character and then bring that information to life through your word choices, the details and how you thread these details together.
Filter the Setting through one character’s experience, emotions and mindset at a time.
Sensory detail is one of the most underrated tools in a writer’s toolbox and can make a world of difference in creating novels that stand out in a reader’s mind.
Not every Setting needs all five senses described in detail—that approach is overkill and can have a major impact on your story pacing, not to mention overwhelming the reader with TMI (too much information). But when introducing the reader to a character, or changing the location of the story, or focusing a reader in on a place that’s going to play a larger role in the story, then by all means dig deeper to create a strong Setting image. And a key way to do this is via sensory details.
Change the time and emotional state of the POV character and you should notice a difference in which sensory details are being noticed.
Pull your reader deeper into the world of your story by allowing them to feel the temperature, smell the cut grass, hear the roar of a motorcycle but not any motorcycle, a Cagiva V589 (but only if this detail matters to the POV character), taste the brine of the seashore. There’s a wealth of details that can make a difference between a ho-hum manuscript and a killer one.
The really amazing thing about writing active Setting is that once you understand how to use the concepts it can take your writing to the next level in the blink of an eye. Don’t trust me, trust what other writers have said in their comments at Amazon and Goodreads. The links are below to make it easy for you to check out the feedback.
So what about you? Do you find writing Setting a struggle or piece of cake? Any tips to share with other writers that you’ve found useful?
Author Kris Bock joins us on Wednesday, March 19th.
Readers usually remember the plot and characters of a story, but setting is every bit as important in creating a memorable world. Novel writing can be enjoyable once you’ve mastered a few of the writing skills necessary to bring a story to life.
If you’re tired of your Setting descriptions being ho-hum and are ready to create a compelling story world, regardless of what you write, or your current level of writing skills, the WRITING ACTIVE SETTING series is for you!
Bio: Mary Buckham doesn’t just teach, she practices what she preaches as a USA Today bestselling author of the WRITING ACTIVE SETTING series (in e-format and now in book form) as well as Urban Fantasy w/attitude. Love romance, danger & kick-ass heroines? Find it in her Invisible Recruits series or her YA Red Moon series written with NYT author Dianna Love under the name Micah Caida. To learn more about Mary, visit her website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
- Weekly Lecture Schedule – March 17th to March 22nd
- Pacing Can Make or Break Your Story with Maggie Touissant
- Ask An Editor: Dos and Don’ts of Settings
- C.J. Redwine – How to Escalate Conflict in Your Novel
- Top 3 Submission Errors and How Authors Can Fix ‘em