Monday, June 8, 2009

Setting Isn't Just Time And Place

Janet here. When I first started writing, I thought of setting as the place and timeframe of the story. To put it in a nutshell—that little tag on page one in a book giving the location and year. For my May release Courting the Doctor's Daughter the setting is Noblesville, Indiana, 1898. I tried to expand the locale until readers could picture the small town, knew the location of Adelaide’s shop or Doctor Lawrence’s office. I make the setting as unique as I can by giving readers a sense of what folks wore, how they got around and the times they lived in. Those details of the setting enrich the story and ground the reader.

But over time I realized setting can be so much more than a place in time. And I'm still learning.

Using setting to heighten emotion: I talked about using setting to increase emotion in a previous Seekerville post and wanted to expand today on other ways we can use setting. One tiny emotional detail of the setting can provide more impact to the reader than pages and pages of description. If the character hones in on a single detail, he creates a far more powerful impact for the reader than if he focused on the large picture. Just as photos taken from the air after a tornado may give an idea of the extent of the damage, but a close-up shot of a battered teddy bear on a pile of debris can be heart wrenching.

Using setting to advance the plot: Everything in a book should advance the plot. Make the setting important by making it advance and strengthen your plot and reveal character. Try to work these details in with action so the description doesn’t slow the pace. The small town setting, for example, creates both blessings and problems for characters that impact the plot and reveal character.

Using setting as a way to emphasize mood: Small details from the setting can reflect what the character is saying or feeling. By manipulating setting, say with a thunderstorm, I can emphasize the mood of a high tension scene. Or reflect the internal conflict and emotions of a character, as in these snippets from Courting the Doctor’s Daughter.

Inside the surgery, he stumbled to the window, staring at the flashing sky, his composure as jagged as the streaks of lightening brightening the night, lighting up the guilt inside him.

Mary crossed to the living room window, seeing her contorted features in the rain-streaked glass, a weeping face, or so it appeared. But she’s wept bucketsful and had no more tears.

Weather can also ratchet up the tension between characters. By describing the increasing storm, the reader feels the increasing tension. Use the harshness of the weather to emphasize the harsh conflict and emotions between characters.

Or just the opposite. The first snowfall at Christmas time can add a magical quality to a scene and either increase the sense of romance and harmony between the characters or add to the conflict when a character realizes he can never have this picture perfect world.

Using setting as an analogy: Comparisons between the setting and the character is a great way to show. Mary is struggling with self esteem issues in Courting the Doctor’s Daughter:

She hesitated, clearly torn about revealing her thoughts. He kept holding her hand, kept holding her gaze. Finally, she released a long, shuddering breath. “Deep down inside, in a place I’m not proud of, can barely admit exists, it hurts I was a throw-away baby.” Mary turned toward the river. Near its edge a bottle floated on the current. Just ahead, trapped by a submerged log, an old boot and rusty can bobbed in the water lapping against the bank. She gestured toward the litter. “Someone’s trash.”

In Courting Miss Adelaide, I used this technique when Adelaide sits across from members of the orphan selection committee to ask for a child. All the applicants for the children have been couples and the vacant seat is glaring proof of her single state.

To fill the vacant chair with something, she laid her purse on the seat, a seat that mocked her singleness.

I didn’t understand the full potential for using the setting until my critique partner, Shirley Jump told me that the setting has to act, not just be there. Setting becomes a character, interacting in some way, with your character’s thoughts and feelings.

Using setting as character: This passage from The Substitute Bride, February 2010, shows Ted and the setting interacting.

He dropped into a rocker near the potbelly stove, stretching out his legs toward the warmth of the fire. As he stared into the window at the flames, thinking how difficult childhood could be sometimes, his mind catapulted back.

Fire and brimstone. Exactly what his father preached at those revivals. Men and women rushed to the altar to lay down the load of their sins. But behind that fiery demeanor lived a liar. Even at five, Ted had known his dad pocketed the offering, later laughing at the stupidity of those he bilked. Not a preacher at all, but a charlatan who stole money to gamble.

When the gaming tables had taken his last dime, he’d put down the cards and pick up the garb of a preacher again, until he’d swindled another stake from trusting souls in another town.
The flames flickered, but Ted barely noticed the dancing oranges and yellows. He saw an endless parade of towns, filled with faces his father had betrayed, as he’d sat on the front row, throat tight with shame, and waited...fear crawling his spine, sure God would strike his father dead on the spot. But God never did.

The flames before him ebbed, but the heat remained. Much like God’s love. God didn’t kill sinners—He loved them. Even men like his father.

Even men like him.

Not only did the flames trigger memories, they interact with Ted, almost as if he held a conversation with the flames and they gave him insight into his past. Into his present. When we use these details of our setting to make the character confront his past, his deepest fears or biggest regrets, the impact is strong, raising emotion in the reader. Or so we hope.

Describe setting carefully. If you describe something, readers will expect it to be significant and be disappointed if it isn't. Don't over describe or you'll slow the pace.

To state again: Use the details of your setting to enrich your story. Setting should advance and strengthen your plot. Setting can heighten emotion, reveal character, emphasize mood and conflict. By using setting as a character to interact with your characters, you’re showing instead of telling. And you’re increasing the emotional impact for the reader.

If you're feeling brave, share examples of how you use setting in your stories to up the emotion, emphasize mood, as an analogy or even as character.

I've brought coffee and vegetable cheese omelet with a side of salsa this morning. Pull up a chair and let's talk setting.


  1. Just glanced over your post this morning(the movers are coming in less than an hour!) but wow! You really gave me something to think about as I brew my next WIP. Because I have absolutely no food in this so to be empty house, I've only got store bought creme filled doughnuts and chocolate covered bearclaws--so much for any type of diet!

    Patty Hall

  2. Hello! I've been "stalking" this blog for a couple weeks and just now got up the courage to post a comment. :-)

    One question I have is whether editors and agents find the thunderstorm analogy to be too cliche. I've started my current manuscript with the heroine driving home from a doctor appt through a thunderstorm and made the parallel to her current life situation. But I left the details out to create some mystery.

    I remember reading somewhere in a comment here, "Never start a book with weather." Is that referring more to overdoing description, or would my manuscript's beginning be instantly tossed because of the cliched beginning?

    I've been struggling with whether to restructure a bit, but am curious of other people's opinions. Thanks!

  3. Janet,

    I'm not particularly brave on setting, but am definitely desperate to get better at it. I don't find anything exceptionally good in my WIP.

    I'll give it a try.

    I trudged in the bright sun to the mailbox. The brown, lifeless grass crunched under my feet and reminded me of the noise I made as a kid, from stomping the bubble pack from packages. When would it rain? The intense rays beat down on me and the dry air stifled me, threatening to suck the life right out of me. The heaviness in my heart from losing my father, the monotony of my dead end job, and the overwhelming feeling of being alone weighed down my steps. My life was as parched as the draught conditions the meteriologists couldn't stop talking about.

    Any thoughts on that one?

    Thanks for sharing your ideas, Janet!


  4. Good morning, Patty. I'm impressed you had time to stop in at Seekerville on moving day. Thanks!
    Hope the move goes smoothly.

    Who doesn't love doughnuts? Thanks for the contribution. :-) We've had one party after another all weekend and I've gained two pounds. :-(

    You make a good point about thinking about your setting when you're starting a new book. Location makes a huge difference on what you can do in a story.


  5. Janet,

    Great post! You've got me wondering about several places in my WIP. I posted one below, a place where my charcater focused on a single detail of a scene.

    The setting of the story is late
    16th century Japan. The character, Sen, is the heroine. (I say that only because it's a Japanese name and I didn't want people guessing at the character's gender.)

    A whiff of sweet air reached Sen’s nose. She glanced and saw a familiar face from the day of the attack at her house. It had been the baker who’d helped her and her parents when that rogue samurai had attacked.

    The man was kneeling in front of his store, petting a fluffy little white dog with a tale that curved over its back. Sen didn’t recognize the breed, but it was likely a community dog, one who stayed in the neighborhhod and the local shopkeepers had adopted him as a mascot. The baker was feeding him something. He was definitely a nice man. Duty and gratitude demanded she express her appreciation for his actions on that day, but now was not the time.

    I've only had frozen yogurt this morning. Everything sounds good.

  6. WOW!!! That's the first word that came to mind this morning, Janet, as I read your incredible blog -- WOW!! You nailed setting like I've never seen done before, and I am walking away with several gems in my pocket that I did not have before -- thank you!!

    Absolutely LOVED all your scenes mentioned as examples, but the lightening one gave me cold chills. Sarah asked if editors or agents find the thunderstorm analogy cliche. Well, I don't know about them, but I sure don't when it's written as compellingly and wonderfully as that! Great job!


  7. Hi Sarah, that's a great question. Starting a book with a thunderstorm might raise an editor's cliche flag, as in "One dark and stormy night." :-) But during a highly emotional scene bad weather can heighten the impact or even become part of the action. I've never had an editor tell me to take out a storm and I have bad weather in two of my three sold books.

    Without knowing your story, I'm going to suggest that opening with the character thinking while driving a car may not be the best way to hook an editor. If she got disturbing news, perhaps you could start the story talking with the doctor in his office. If mystery about her diagnosis is important, maybe she can withhold information while talking to someone. I'm not sure characters leave out upsetting information in their own thoughts. Whether the story starts with action, dialogue or in the character's head, the opening needs to hook the reader in the first line. Not to say yours doesn't. I'm just suggesting your character not be driving.

    Thanks for having the courage to comment. Remember the story is yours so you know best if what I've suggested works.


  8. Such seasoned writers, saying they learned a lot from your blog. Apparently, one never stops learning about all the ins and outs of writing. Whew!!!

  9. Hi Cathy, you have some powerful images and analogies in that passage. Good job using setting!

    You're telling the reader in this passage that your heroine is grieving, lonely and hates her job. This may be a lot to lay on the reader all at once. Can you find a way to show this? Perhaps sympathy cards in her mailbox or a response to a job inquiry trigger her thoughts. However if you've shown all this earlier and are just recapping the heroine's troubles by using setting that may be fine. You know your story.


  10. I loved this blog. My favorite gold nugget was the one about setting interacting like a secondary character. I tried that in the following scene:

    The rumble of rail cars and the distant whine of brakes caught Gideon’s ear in the quiet of the empty house. Long afternoons when Ellen left him to himself, the train out of Staunton sang the mournful tune of lost time and opportunity. The doubled rhythm of wheels on iron tracks echoed a refrain 'come back, come back, come back' until the steam locomotive faded into the distance.
    His health had made gains just enough to deepen his desire to do what he most longed—return to his daughters--yet, Charleston still evaded his reach. He sat at his window and gazed off at the smokestack of the engine. The billows blew away like the weeks since he’d been home, while darker clouds gathered.

    Thanks for this fun excercise!

    Kathleen L. Maher

  11. Good morning, Walt. I love how you used the sense of smell to bring the heroine's attention to the bakery. Then used interactions with an animal to show the baker's character. Excellent! Maybe add a snippet to describe the dog's condition. Is his fur dirty, matted? Or well groomed since he's a mascot? Is the baker the hero? If so, describe him as she sees him. If he touched her that night, were his hands gentle as they are now with the dog?

    I don't know the story, but I'd suggest you "milk" this scene by adding more emotion, more tension. Wouldn't Sen react to her memories of the attack? How would she be affected by seeing the man who saved them? Can you give her physical reactions or a thought that ups the emotion?

    I'm curious why now is not the time to thank him. The dog would be a nice opener if she's shy.


  12. Great post, Janet. Something else I need to get better at. Sigh.

  13. Good morning, Julie! Thanks for your kind words. You use setting beautifully in your books. Give us a peek at a scene. Pretty please.


  14. Hi Anonymous. You hit the proverbial nail on the head. Cliche alert as Margie Lawson loves to say. :-) Writers never stop learning. Even if I know a technique, I might not remember to use it when I'm writing my books. I try to examine a scene to see what I can add to up tension or emotion. Using setting is just one way of doing that.


  15. Kathleen, the interaction between Gideon and the train makes for a powerful scene. You've intrigued me and I want to know more. Great job! My only suggestion, if the train faded into the distance, can he see the smokestack? Not saying he can't. :-)


  16. I started Petticoat Ranch with an oncoming storm. So weather can squeak past the editors.

    Using setting as a full character is such a rich way to write. Don't think of it as another chore, another rule you need to follow, think of it as a wonderful tool you can use to enhance your story.

    Storms, rugged mountains, rushing urban streets, quiet, beautiful small towns, rolling rivers, scorching deserts...all of these set a mood, draw a picture in shorthand in a readers mind because a few carefully sketched scenes come alive in their imagination.

    In Calico Canyon, the weather snowing Grace and Daniel into that canyon...with only that one way out...was the foundation of the book. Because they'd have BOTH run away from their marriage if they could only have escaped.

    In Gingham Mountain a blizzard stops Hannah from chasing after Grant when he adopts two children and she thinks he'll mistreat them. She's forced back to town and forced to plot and plan how she'll find him and wrest those children from his clutched.
    The blizzard takes on a life of it's own, a malevolent personality.

    Nosy in Nebraska, the small town setting is a huge character in the book. I had so much fun doing those books and my own experience living in a small town gave me a lot to add personality to that story.

    Great post, Janet. It makes me determined to go deeper into the book I'm working on now with setting. Really use all the potential for Character in the setting.

  17. Janet,

    I opened a lot of questions with my excerpt. I hope that's good. The baker is not the hero of the story. (The hero of the story atually fought the rogue samurai during that earlier scene.) However, the baker is a friend of her parents and happened to be on-site at the time of the attack. His help was to provide extra numbers to the hero, which caused the bad samurai to flee, and to attend to the heroine and her mother with first aid after they'd been hurt.

    As to why Sen can't stop, she was an eyewitness to a crime and is leading two samurai, who are investigating it, to the location.

    I like your suggestions on how to go further with the dog.

  18. Hi Melanie, I'm sighing right along with you. Why does writing have to be such hard work? But when we persevere and give it our all, we're rewarded with a powerful scene that impacts us and our readers. Heady stuff! :-)


  19. Mary, you use setting beautifully to raise the tension and keep the reader turning pages! You're so right. Setting is a tool, not another rule we must follow. Thanks for your excellent examples from your books and for the reminder to get a copy of Nosy in Nebraska. I can't wait to read those stories!


  20. Thanks, Walt, for sharing more of your story. Giving an opinion based on one scene is hard to get right. Glad I was some help with the dog.


  21. Janet - Thanks for the feedback! While I don't think my beginning fits the mold of "one dark and stormy night", I've had the hunch to change it up for a while. Now I just need to sit down and experiment with other options.

    On a side note, you mentioned your new release is set in Noblesville, IN. I'm from Indianapolis and love visiting Conner Prairie. Did you by chance get your inspiration there? :-)

  22. I rather have chereroos, but I love to talk and read books, so I am here.


  23. Such good reminders of how and when to use this great tool in the writer arsenal.

    When I go back to read my early stuff, I see how clunky my descriptions were. I loved to do the 'slow pan' of the room or landscape before zeroing in on the person or action.

    KER-PLUNK! "Here's a steaming helping of Setting for you, reader!"


  24. Sarah, I set my orphan train books in Noblesville because research told me a train stopped there in 1859. So it was believable it would stop again. :-) And the buildings on the square fit the date of my story. I haven't been to Conner's Prairie in years. I love living history and should go again. Thanks for the reminder!


  25. Good morning, Edna. Food and books--there's no better combination. :-)
    Thanks for stopping in.


  26. Hi Erica, I have manuscripts I'd never go back to willingly. LOL Still, I'm guessing you have some gems in those early descriptions. I think we can give the larger view of landscape or the room if they don't go on too long and we show the details through a character's eyes. As Mary said, this isn't about rules.


  27. Hello, Seekerville!

    Oh my, so nice to see such a great group of friends here. I brought fresh mint chocolate brownies. Warm. Chewy. Decadent.

    And another newbie came out of the woodwork. Come on in, friend, join us. Welcome! We don't openly make fun of you for at least a week. Sometimes two if Mary's too busy to stop by.

    Oh, wait. It's ME she makes fun of. Of course!

    Janet, you know I love a good setting. I love to see the Texas Hill country, smell the magnolia blossoms in the Southern sun, crunch the apples of Western New York or duck the Seattle rains. Those things transport me to another place, another time.

    In romance, less is often more. To paint a setting using no extraneous words for a line that wants 55,000 or 60,000 or even 65,000 words, is tricky because the longer the line, the more depth of character they require. It's not easy to balance all that.

    But doable.

    Great post!


  28. Great article, Janet, and really wonderful examples! Because I write gothic romance, the setting is particularly important, since in a gothic, the residence is almost another character in the story (and there's lots of rain and storms!) Here's an example from my MS, using the setting to mirror the relationship between the hero and his late (and unlamented!) wife:

    During the days, Jessa gathered up Holly and explored the common rooms of the massive house. Most of the rooms did not look as if they were in use. A layer of dust lay on the top of the piano in the music room. Jessa lifted the lid and ran her fingers lightly across the keys, but it was badly out of tune.

    Although the sun had come out, they fared little better in the gardens running along the side and back of the house. Because of the rocky terrain, the gardens were small, but at one time must have been quite lovely. Tall trees shaded paved walkways. A fountain sat amid a circle of rose bushes. Flowering shrubs burst with blooms, and irises waved purple heads above yellow daffodils.

    But everywhere, there were signs of neglect. The paving stones had shifted and cracked, making the walkways treacherous. The dry fountain overflowed with leaves. Weeds nearly choked out the blooming plants. It was if the lack of love and care in Dash and Lily’s relationship had spread itself over the house, cloaking everything in a miasma of decay.

    Thanks for the great tips, and the reminder to keep setting in mind!

  29. Excellent advice and examples, Janet! Sometimes setting comes through naturally as an integral part of a scene. Other times it takes a little thought.

    In the opening of my upcoming Heartsong Presents romance Autumn Rains, the hero has recently been released from prison. It starts like this:

    The Greyhound bus lurched to a stop in a swirling cloud of diesel fumes. Healy Ferguson heaved his long legs into the aisle and slung his ragged duffel bag over his shoulder. When he stepped off the bus, the heat slammed into him with the force of a 250-pound linebacker.

    “Welcome to St. Louis,” he muttered. Still, he hadn’t seen so much sunshine in the past sixteen years, and it felt good. Real good.

  30. Hi Janet, Loved the examples you set forth for bringing setting alive. I love the setting. Have been accused of having more character in my settings than in my characters. Sigh. But at least there's a positive there. chuckle.

    Loved the omelette. Raining here in Eastern Washington so something hot is wonderful. Maybe I'll write a scene on a drizzly day about a drizzly day. See you inspired me. Thanks

  31. Hi Ruthy, you make a huge point. The smaller the book, the less space we have to describe the setting. That's another reason why historical books are longer. By adding snippets of setting to enrich our stories and characters, we won't add much to the word count and won't slow the space. It's kind of a balancing act, isn't it?

    Thanks for the chocolate mint brownies. Delicious!


  32. Thanks for the post today and the investment of your time.

    I find it interesting that the very words you use to paint the picture are the words alot of people say you should cut. When you planned it that way in the first place to draw the reader deeper.

    I realize people can get too wordy. I'm certain I do, but how do you deal with the naysayers who want you to chop scenes to keep the wording brief.

    Having asked that here is my scene.

    Strapped at her ankles and wrists; a prisoner in a birthing bed somewhere in the lowest corridor of a hospital with an unknown name, she lay panting.

    The lights sputtered and spit overhead, practically keeping time with the rhythm of her heart. A curse of life and death hung over her head.

    Life–the children in her womb. Death–her sentence when those children were born.

    She prayed for the children to wait, but each contraction signaled their impatience. She prayed for freedom from her shackles, but her wrists were raw from trying to find release. The second hand of the large black and white clock continued to turn, ticking off the moments, giving her hope, however dismal, that she might greet the next day.

    But she knew when the solitary figure arrived—a dark angel in pale green scrubs—and uncovered a row of gleaming silver instruments, death awaited her.

  33. Hi Kat, you use setting beautifully in this passage to establish mood and characterization. Excellent!

    I like that you said we should keep setting in mind. We use it selectively, carefully and for maximum effect. Like any tool in our writer's box, we can overdo it.


  34. Good afternoon, Myra. I love the pace of your opening. You give a peek at both the hero and the setting using a few well-chosen words. Which just proves how effective snippets of setting and description can be.


  35. Sandra, good of you to drop in while you're galvanting around the country. I had to laugh that you've been accused of having more character in your settings than in your characters. :-) I'd say there's a huge positive there.

    Glad I've inspired you to write a scene using the setting you're living. It looks like we could get rain here too. Nice day to read, write and chat in Seekerville.


  36. Tina P, you make a huge point. My suggestions are my opinion. And the naysayers who are telling you to cut are giving their opinion. You must decide for yourself what's right for you. But how do you show emotion without using some of these tools? Telling is far faster, but editors aren't big fans of telling. The excerpts from the Courting books are in print so my editor didn't ask me to cut them. I don't have revisions for The Substitute Bride so that excerpt may have to go. But using setting doesn't have to be long passages.

    Your powerful excerpt isn't long. I love the sputtering lights, the ticking clock--all elements of the setting you used to up emotion, emphasize the mood, advance the plot. I wouldn't cut a word.


  37. thank you for that Janet,

    I just received a critique and that very part and they actually wanted me to cut it, I won't of course, cause like you say, I put that in there for the nuance. It's want I want you to feel and see. Sure I could cut it to a few short sentences, but that's not who I am as a writer.

    I really appreciate your take on the matter.

  38. Tina, I love the tension in that passage. Hang in there and do what you feel is right, but I am curious what they suggest you cut.


  39. They wanted me to take the clock out completely, Start with the light and say that the fizzed overhead and drop how they kept kept time with her heart, drop the prisoner in a birthing bed. There was more, but that's some of it.

    I know people mean well, cause that's their taste. I's sure people look at my edit and freak, but I try to remind them that it's just my taste, don't make my taste your's use what feels like who you are as a writer if you choose and dump the rest.

    I promise I won't be offended and I probably won't know anyway.

  40. BTW, waving at Kathleen Maher.

    good to have you here Crit partner

    And no, Kathleen is the one who wanted the words cut.

  41. Hello Janet:

    I have a few comments to make about setting from the POV of a reader.

    Setting should count, it should have consequences, and it should have the requisite foundation.

    For example:

    If a story is set in Venice (only because books set in Venice sell better) but could easily be set most anywhere else in the world (with a minor amount of editing), then I feel cheated.

    Setting should have consequences. If you must have a ferocious thunder storm, then something should be changed because of that storm. It just can’t come because it is convenient as a mood setting element and then just go away.

    Setting should have a foundation. It’s OK to start your book with a ‘dark and stormy night’ if there is a new moon and it is always stormy in that ocean side location at that time of the year. (Or if a storm had been predicted in the prologue.)

    An interesting book concerning this topic is “Blind Descent” by Nevada Barr. This story takes place almost entirely underground in the dark. This is a rather amazing exercise in writing skill. While I don’t think the story came off as well as Barr’s other books, it is still an amazing piece of writing.

    Also, a book I just finished by Jillian Hart, “His Holiday Heart” is set in an almost constant, several week long, Montana blizzard. I read it because it is hot here in Tulsa and I wanted to read about a cool place. The author makes excellent use of the snow and cold which is probably a perfect representation for the hero of the story.

    BTW, I like your Noblesville setting so much I’d like to see more of it.


  42. Thank you. Great examples. Lots to think about.

  43. Hi Janet,
    Great blog. Setting is so important. I always love to use weather to increase suspense. Often the surroundings play into the escalating tension. I also play with light. Darkness is bad; light is good and often used sparingly until the happily ever after.

  44. Tina, I agree. The author should consider a change but has the final word...until she gets an editor. :-) Though I've known authors who defended their vision for the manuscript and got to keep it. I've found my editors have always been right.


  45. Vince, you're absolutely right that the setting should be integral to the story. My post is more about using details from the setting to enrich the story, than how authors should select location for their books.

    I'm not sure I agree there has to be consequences to a thunderstorm. I can see that for a tornado or hurricane, something less commonplace with more danger.

    I so appreciate your interest in my books and the setting. Is there a character you'd like to see in a book?


  46. Hi Sheila, glad you found the post thought provoking. Thanks for stopping in.


  47. Debby, thanks for making a great point on using light and dark to convey tension and suspense.


  48. Hello Janet:

    I agree with you. The term ‘consequences’ of a thunderstorm may be too strong a term. What I had in mind was that something in the story (down the road) needs to be different because there was a thunderstorm than if there had never been a thunderstorm. It could be a little thing but I’d like to see something happen that validates the storm. Of course, this applies only if the storm was unusual. You don’t need consequences for another sunny day in Yuma.

    A character I’d like to see is a 30-year old widow who has lost her faith in God because of the unfairness of her husband’s death. I’d like her to be a new doctor who went to medical school with Mary Graves from “Courting the Doctor’s Daughter”. I’d like her to have a seven year-old son who is a ‘boy wonder’ preacher.

    Believers come from miles around to hear the boy preach. The hero could be a former “boy wonder” preacher himself who is now disillusioned because his father used him to steal church money. He is now (in 1902) just trying to live life as an anonymous saloon owner. He suffers from a leg wound he got in the Spanish American war. The heroine has to repeatedly treat this war injury. Is that too much information? LOL.


    P.S. A prize fight with a big name boxer of the time plus a tornado or two would be very nice.

  49. Hi Janet!

    I know I'm late, but I had to comment. You are so right about the setting serving as another character. Make every element of your 60 - 100,000 words count!

    I particularly loved your fireplace scene. Humans have such a fascination with fire. I know my mind wanders while I'm snuggled in front of blazing fire and yes, you do see figures in the flames!!

    Great post, Janet!

  50. I know I am late posting but you are so right about settings in books, very important. Thanks for sharing your books with us they sound fantastic.