Thursday, September 6, 2012

Make Setting Part of the Action

My writing tip today has to do with setting.

Years ago it used to be the norm for writers to use several pages to describe setting. Some, I swear, went back to the beginning of dirt and soil erosion. And that was okay at the time. Readers were more patient.

But today it's different.

Your writing competes for attention not only with TV and movies, but with video games and the Internet. Readers want to get on with the story. As a writer you need to invest the reader in the world you've created not only with descriptions of the landscape, but with interesting characters as they move through the setting.

In other words, you need your setting to become part of the action of your characters.

Let me show you what I mean. Here's the opening of the novel I just wrote.

Angry lightning cut through dark, heavy clouds banked on the Targhee Mountains. Straddling the wood-splintered rodeo gate to chute number five, Josephine Powers glanced up at the turbulent sky. A deep rumble of thunder echoed through Swan Valley and reverberated over the ground.

 Did something similar to this picture come to mind? I hope so. In one paragraph you knew where you were and that a storm was about to break. Plus, you met one of the main characters. The storm also mirrors turbulence that will happen in the rest of the scene.

So my writing tip today is weave setting in with the action of your characters.

What novels have you read lately that do a good job of making the setting more than a chunk of description, but actually part of the action?



  1. Hi Kathi,
    I saw you last night at the author's dinner but didn't get a chance to visit. It was such a wonderful and inspirational evening. Hope you had a good time!

    1. Oh darn! I didn't see you. You should have grabbed me. It was a wonderful evening. Next time . . .

  2. This is a fabulous post, Kathi! You're absolutely right about attention spans these days. You have to make every line count and thread description into the action. Setting and weather need to reflect the mood of the character or create atmosphere or foreshadow what's coming next. It's challenging, and I love doing it! :-)

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  4. I love a good book where I know where everything is and can see everything just by the words on the page.



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