Breathe Life into Story with Authentic Setting

Have you visited JamiGold.com yet? If not, head over there now! Jami Gold is an author of Paranormal Romance and Contemporary Romance, but not only that, she’s got a great blog with tons of writing tips for authors! I was thrilled to guest blog on her site about “How to Make Settings Come to Life with Sensory Details.”

Here’s a snippet of my post for Jami and a link to read more!

When I read a book, I often stop and analyze what draws me into the world and makes my own reality fall away. Almost every single time…it’s setting.

I love when an author uses setting to evoke a deeper feeling in the reader, or to reveal something about the character without ever saying what that thing is.

Setting is not just a visual tool. Setting is comprised of the senses, from what you see, smell, hear, tactually feel, even what you taste.

Setting is a powerful tool, a magic wand that can make your story come alive…or when not used properly, can suffocate your story until it can barely breathe.

Barely-Breathing vs. Alive-and-Kickin’

Let’s look at an example. This is a dumbed-down version of setting from USA Today Bestselling Author Jaye Wells’ Deadly Spells:

Snow lined either side of the sidewalk and a crow squawked in a nearby tree.

This is utilitarian. It gets the job done. It’s breathing. We know it’s cold outside and we have a small hint of something ominous or foreboding with the crow. We have two setting components: vision and sound.

But it feels rather two-dimensional, doesn’t it? I don’t get any feeling or real indication of the mood in my POV character, do you?

What Jaye Wells actually wrote was this:

Banks of snow lined either side of the sidewalk. Snow clouds overhead dampened sound; the only noise was my breathing, the clank of the flag’s hook against the pole, and the squawk of a crow in a nearby tree. The bird’s beady eyes tracked my progress toward the school.

See the difference? Jaye still only used two setting components—vision and sound—but the way she used them makes us sink into the story.

Read more…