Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Using Setting in Your Writing, Especially if You've Never Been There


It's one of those powerful additions to your book or short story that will either make it or break it. If you're writing about London, for example, but have never actually stepped foot there, it's a good idea to study up; and I'm not talking about merely looking up London online and getting a few key points.

Photo by: Trodel, courtesy of Flickr

Setting is one of those things that folks can usually tell if you've got right or wrong, because they have either visited the country or state or have lived there. I would suggest a study online, and then talking with someone who has been there, and following up this conversation with anything you can find (a movie, a documentary, a travel program) that will help you.

Old London Bridge Alcove, Victoria Park
Photo by: Fin Fahey, courtesy of Flickr
One thing a friend will tell you that a travel program might not is the truth about where to eat and where to stay the night. They may also share with you about the "unheard of" places that are fun to visit--even free adventures that may not be mentioned on a travel program.

How could the above picture help you with a scene involving two characters who are falling in love? Or breaking up?

Of course, setting should be balanced with dialogue. The best setting is interwoven between the things that people say, and when the words are said, we can see where the person is standing and what the surroundings look like. Especially if we're in unfamiliar territory, it's a good idea to paint a picture that the reader can see.

I have had to work on setting in my own writing and often find myself going back to my novel and adding it in later. What I do well is dialogue, but the page can be so full of it that I forget the fullness that can be achieved when both setting and dialogue are balanced.

In the end, it's all about a great story where the reader sees and feels, as if he/she is watching a movie on a big screen, what our book is all about.


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