Monday, March 17, 2014

Settings that Captivate Readers

Janet here. Novels need a strong sense of time and place. Something more detailed than the dateline in the opening that I use in my Love Inspired Historical romances. That dateline gives the reader a temporary anchor, but the descriptions of setting that follow the simple “New Harmony, Iowa, 1901” is what creates a story world. Settings range from familiar small town locales to exotic locations to paranormal, sci-fi or fantasy worlds and anywhere in between.

The importance of the setting may vary but the setting should still be considered a character in the story. Setting is like the location of a home. If we build a mansion on a non-descript lot without plantings, without a view, the home’s beauty is diminished. In the same way, we don’t want to build our stories upon a bland, forgettable setting. Without a strong setting, the actions, conflict and plot exist in a vacuum. And readers will find it difficult to escape everyday life to join the characters on their journey. Think of Gone with the Wind. Rip out the charm and tragedy of the Antebellum South and the Civil War and the story’s impact is diminished.

Not that we writers want to give so many details that we bore readers or make them think they’re reading a travel log or have stumbled into a history class.

How do we know we’re writing too much description?
·         When the descriptions hinder or stop the action.
·         When the characters are left dangling on the page for several  paragraphs while we rhapsodize over a sunset or seascape.
·         When our gut says we’re droning on too long, we should listen.
·         When we describe what is not important to the plot or to the character.

How can we put descriptions on the page that readers won’t skip?
·      Sprinkle short descriptions between dialogue and action.

Kind of like feeding a finicky infant. A dab of applesauce on the tip of the spoon slips the green beans in before the baby knows what happened. I will use excerpts from my books that will hopefully illustrate my points.
From Wanted: A Family:
            His gaze roamed the kitchen, took in the cupboards, their patina mellow with age, then the checked green and white curtains framing the windows, the soft green walls, the vase of dahlias in the center of the table. The serenity in the room reflected Callie, wrapped around Jake, tugging him in. Everywhere he looked he saw Callie’s penchant for tidiness, for making a nest. “This is cozy.”
            “Aunt Hilda always said the kitchen’s the heart of a home.” She motioned to the sink. “Feel free to wash up while I pour your coffee.”
            Jake eased passed her. At the washbasin, he scrubbed his hands and dried them on a towel. When had he felt anything softer? Not the rough, threadbare towels he’d used in prison. 

To Jake these little homey details in sharp contrast with his years in an orphanage and in prison draw him in.

·         Write descriptions that are powerful and create emotion in the reader.

From “Last Minute Bride,” Brides of the West anthology:
  As he headed out, he passed the surgery room. He paused by the cabinet, his gaze roaming bottles of medicine, scissors and scalpels glistening in the sunlight.
Once he had believed in those medicines and instruments. Believed in his ability as a doctor. But then he had sat by his sister’s bedside, preformed surgery and watched her die. His medicines, his instruments, his hands of no use. Those bottles and tools promised cures when David knew the truth.
                Some things couldn't be cured. Some people couldn’t be saved. Some people couldn’t be forgiven. Like him.

I use setting to elicit Doctor Wellman’s pain of not being able to save his sister.

·         Create settings that are appropriate to the book.
Create settings that are unique, appealing, intriguing, harsh. Whatever is needed to match the book’s mood and plot.
From An Inconvenient Match:
Outside the Cummings gate, wrought of iron, tall and imposing and all but shouting Keep Out, Abigail gulped, lifting her eyes to the three-story structure looming over her. Brick exterior, wood cornices and brackets supported the eaves. A boxy cupola with windows rose above the roof, a watchtower of sorts.
Abigail had never been inside the mansion, for surely no other word described this commanding house. Yet nothing about the structure was pretentious. The house reflected George Cummings, a man with money to build a solid house that never let down its guard. Never let others near.

Abigail’s family and the Cummings are feuding. The way she sees the Cummings house fits the tone of the book.  
 Use settings to give the reader important information.

From An Inconvenient Match:
Refusing to give the scoundrel another thought, Abigail moved through the park, pulling into her lungs a faint whiff of smoke. The acrid odor sparked memories of the fire that had swept through New Harmony two weeks earlier, leaving behind destruction and suffering.
As she recalled the unbearable heat, the thick smoke, the terror of the night, she stomach knotted. But then, the underlying scent of fresh lumber reached her nostrils and its promise of a new beginning eased the tension inside of her.

·         Use weather to altar the setting to fit the plot and the character’s mood.

From The Bride Wore Spurs:
In the distance thunder rumbled, the sky drew dark, matching his dark concern for Allie and the dismal prospect of life without Hannah. The wind kicked up, setting the branches of the trees swaying. Overhead the ceiling of clouds turned turbulent.
As turbulent as the eyes Hannah turned on Matt.

As writers, we get to not only create a setting, we get to control the setting’s weather, using conditions to mimic mood, heighten suspense, even create danger or trouble for characters. Suspense writers use weather to up the struggle for survival. Storms, surging surf, clear starlit nights will be seen differently depending on how those elements impact the characters’ situation.  
How can we make settings matter so much readers won’t skip them?

Settings are easier to skip when they lack significance to the character or to the story. When settings up the action, the tension, the emotion, they become as vital to the book as the dialogue and plot. That makes them much harder to skip.  

·         When we show the setting through the point of view character’s eyes something about the character will be revealed to the reader. Better yet, something unknown.

The setting is seen differently by different people and differently by the same people at different times. Try saying that six times. Characters notice what matters to them and view what they notice in accordance with past experiences and present circumstances.

From Wanted: A Family:
            She swiped a strand of hair clinging to her damp skin and let her gaze roam the old Victorian, the house where she and Martin had lived the past two years. Once majestic, but now with the peeling paint demanding another coat, the rickety porch begging for solid boards and rails, the roof pleading for shingles, the house looked like a princess down on her luck.
            Her breath caught. Martin had called her his princess, usually when he sought her forgiveness for some infraction. Some infraction usually involved skipping work or spending money they didn’t have. But how could she not forgive that happy-go-lucky charmer most anything? Her throat tightened. Especially now?  
            Of their own volition her eyes traveled to the steep gabled roofline, to the spot where Martin had lost his footing in early November and tumbled to his death.

Instead of telling the reader Callie’s husband died from a fall off their roof, I used the setting to reveal that information in an emotional way. This house is significant, a symbol of sorts. As the house is restored so are its occupants.
       When we use the setting to show characterization.

Characters’ gender, economic, social and marital status and occupation also impacts what they observe and how they react. Little details won’t be overlooked when they hold special meaning and the character has reason to be observant.

From An Inconvenient Match:
        …He waited but heard nothing, then opened the door and entered the bedroom. Spotless, organized with nothing frivolous, nothing personal, not a picture, trinket or toiletry in sight. The décor was stark, shades of brown and black. Dismal.
         Like the man.

Wade’s sick father’s bedroom reveals his father’s personality and hints at their relationship.
        When we use setting to show character change and growth.

In the following two excerpts I echo the setting of the doctor’s office and the bottle of remedy—another symbol—that Luke formulated to reveal the growth and change of this wounded doctor.

From Courting the Doctor’s Daughter: In this first excerpt, the setting reveals Luke’s despair,
his inability to move on from the mistakes he’d made in his past.
His gaze moved to the bottle. In his mind, he saw Mary opposing him that first day. As if she’d instinctively known he meant nothing but trouble in her life. In Ben’s. Doubt coiled through him, weighed down his limbs until he couldn’t move.
            No matter what Doc had said, his medicine reminded Luke of failure. He’d found no cure for epilepsy. He didn’t have the money to build a refuge for those afflicted with the disorder. And he’d let Mary down. He’d let down his son. Worst of all, he opened the door to his parents who were capable of anything.
            He gave the bottle a shove, harder than he meant to. It toppled, sliding across the table and disappearing off the edge, hitting the floor, splattering liquid and shattered glass in every direction.
            A mess. Exactly what he’d made of his life.

Near the story’s end, Luke’s view of his remedy reveals his growth and change.  
            Turning to go, his gaze swept the enormous breakfront filled with medicine. Something stopped him, made him open the glass door. Finding what he sought, Luke clutched his remedy and  then walked to the table, dropped into a chair and set the bottle in front of him. Doc had said the contents of his bottle mattered. Had been part of God’s plan.
            Joseph’s suffering had led him to find this medicine, to dedicate his life to healing. God had used this remedy to bring Mary, Doc, and the boys into his life. The liquid caught the light from above, glistened with a shimmer of gold. And unbroken bottle, unblemished and shining like a new start. Or so he saw it now.
       When we use elements of the setting to reveal the characters’ mood.  

From The Bride Wore Spurs:
            Hannah grappled with the feed sack, watching the oaks tumble end over end into the feedbox. A sense of peace filled her. Here in the stable, among the crusty cowpokes, unpredictable livestock and her steadfast steed, she fit. This life filled her as she filled Star’s feedbox, to the brim, to overflowing.
·         When we use setting to increase or ease conflict or in some way impact our characters’ situation we heighten tension for characters and readers.

From An Inconvenient Match:
            Abigail leaned the counter and let her gaze sweep the large, well-equipped kitchen. A mammoth stove, the vast workspace and two enormous iceboxes could easily handle food preparation for lavish dinner parties.
            Off to the side, the butler’s pantry’s floor-to-ceiling cabinets displayed silver serving pieces geared to lavish entertaining. Entertaining this house hadn’t seen. Or if it had, the Wilsons hadn’t received an invitation.
            No matter how often she came here, Abigail couldn’t get over the luxury. Proof she and Wade lived in different worlds.

The setting produces conflict and concern that Abigail and Wade can’t overcome their differences in status.

·         When we use elements of the setting to trigger memories or flashbacks in characters that adds emotion, depth and emphasizes a point without hammering the reader over the head.

From The Substitute Bride:
He dropped into a rocking chair 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 had preached at those revivals. Men and women rushed to the altar to lay down their load of sin. But behind his father’s fiery demeanor lived a liar. Even as young as five, Ted had known his father pocketed the offering, laughing at the stupidity of those he bilked. Not a preacher at all, but a charlatan who stole money to gamble.

Skipping down

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. Ted had sat on the front row, throat tight with shame, and waited…fear crawling up his spine, sure God would strike his father dead on the spot. But God never did.
The flames began to ebb, 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.

What must we do to write setting effectively?

We need to research. If we’re careless about creating authentic settings, our readers will know and may let us know.

·         We need to know our characters. Know who they are and what makes them tick. Know what happened in their pasts that impacts them today and holds them back. Once we know our characters, we’ll know what about this place, about this time, impacts the characters and the story we want to tell. Then we’ll show the setting through their eyes and the setting will matter. If we do that as effectively as we can, readers won’t want to skip a word.

I’ve ordered lavish breakfast buffet and salad bar for lunch. I've set the tables. Some with Seekerville’s finest china, sterling flatware and crystal with linen napkins and tablecloth. Others with pottery, glasses, stainless flatware, fabric place mats and matching napkins. Others with paper plates and napkins, plastic glasses and utensils with a plastic disposable tablecloth. I’m guessing behavior, plans, mood, and conversation at these table may vary, that the setting, even at dining tables, matters. So let us know which table you made a beeline to and why. 

Or if you prefer, share a novel you've read with a setting you've never forgotten. 

Or ways you've used setting to enhance your stories. 

Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Janet Dean credits her father, an Art and Social Studies teacher, for giving her not only a love of art and history, but also of storytelling. He shared wonderful folksy stories of real people passed down to him from his father. Janet’s mother was an artist in her own right, hand-stitching beautiful quilts. The most important legacy her parents gave her was a love for God.

Janet started writing fiction around the age of twelve, penning and illustrating little romances. None of those early stories survive, but her love of reading and writing did. She married her college sweetheart and taught elementary school before leaving to raise two daughters. After seeking publication for nine years, Janet sold to Love Inspired Books. Whenever she can snatch a few moments away from writing, Janet enjoys stamping greeting cards, playing bridge and golf. She and her husband love to travel.


Dianna Shuford said...

Very timely post, Janet. I've been working on weaving setting into my story in a much more solid and natural way that adds to my characters. My current story has an autistic character, and I'm trying to use setting to show how he is different from everything around him, including his brother. Hopefully, this will make it clear that the character struggles with daily interactions.

Which table would I use? I would pick the paper utensils and plastic tableware. Clean-up on that table would be easy, and I'm all about using my time effectively. Limiting clean up time leaves more time for writing.

Helen Gray said...

I'm tired of winter and want to on a picnic, so set my table with paper plates and plastic forks please.

How can I ever incorporate all those insightful tips?

Coffee's on.

CatMom said...

Thank you for this thorough, helpful post, Janet--it's also just what I needed right now, because I'm revising a manuscript and need to make the setting "come alive".

I've loved all your books, and enjoyed these passages you shared (makes me want to read all those books again--which I can do since they're on my Keeper Shelf!).

For the yummy meals you've brought, I would most likely head to the table with pottery, placemats and matching napkins! That one sounds very color-coordinated (and maybe even festive?) so it really appeals to me.

Thanks again for this post, and I'm looking forward to reading many more Janet Dean books.
Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

Marianne Barkman said...

Janet...that is one thing your novels have...a definite sense of setting, and strong characters! I look forward to them! Thanks for the coffee, Helen. I know you can and do incorporate all these tips into your novels.
Dianna and Patti Jo...I'm looking forward to seeing your names on a novel soon!

Jenny Blake said...

I love books with a timeline like having the date or year at the start it can help me know when its set etc.
have to say I saw the kangaroos and stopped and looked. Love the pics used.
Helen, after you have have such a lousy winter I hate to think what ours could be like. I feel the cold more than I have before and if ours is cold not looking forward to it. (last year was quite mild). We seem to be having true autumn weather but give me a few more hot days.

Im going to join Helen with the paper plates. Picnics need paper plates.

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Dianna! Love that you have an autistic character and are using your setting to show him and his struggles.

The throw away table setting is convenient and quick, important for writers, especially during Speedbo. But, Seekerville does have a dishwasher. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Helen! Thanks for the coffee. I awoke with a tummy ache so I'm up way too early.

A picnic is always possible in Seekerville. The weather here is whatever we want! :-)

I hope the post wasn't too long to digest. Maybe should've split it in two.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Patty Jo.

You are such a lovely encourager! Nothing makes me happier than to hear a reader has my books on her keeper shelves. Thank you!

Glad the post on setting was timely for your revisions. It's never too late to stick in elements of setting that matter.

The pottery table is set with my collection of Polish pottery so colorful and lots of pattern. Enjoy!

Hugs, Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Marianne. After writing this post, I realized I need to beef up my setting in my wip.

Now the characters are strong. If they get any stronger, I'm going to have to wrestle them to the ground. LOL

I'm with you. I'm looking forward to seeing Dianna and Patty Jo's names on the cover of a book!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Jenny! I added the kangaroos just for you! The picture was taken at our children's zoo. All the photos were taken by me.

Hope your winter is nothing like what we've had. Brr.

Enjoy your picnic! It's a gorgeous day here in Seekerville.


Jackie said...

Hi Janet,

Thanks for sharing these great tips on setting. It's so wonderful your dad nurtured the gift of storytelling in you.

Thanks again for the help.

Kav said...

What a great list, Janet. When I think of setting, I think of the actual place, but you've shown how even a room can really add so much to a story.

I just finished Myra Johnson's Pearl of Great Price (I'm blaming her for my lack of word count yesterday because I couldn't put it down. Plus I keep telling myself I was just keeping the Sabbath day holy by not working.) Anyway -- she created quite a setting with the flea market 'Swap and Shop'. Just loved the details through out the book. And the contrast between it and the mansion...but I can't say anything about that without giving plot away.

Oh and I'd be at the pottery table. I'd be scared to death of breaking the fine china and I try to be environmentally friendly so the paper plates are a no go for me. Plus I'm kind of Bohemian and I love splatters of colour and the artsy folksy pottery. Looks like it's just Patti-Jo and me here right now. Hope she brings a purring fur buddy or two. We could let them lap up milk out of pretty pottery. You wouldn't mind, would you?

Jenny Blake said...

Janet I have pictures of kangaroos the same way you took yours. thanks for thinking of me!

im about to head to bed.

Wilani Wahl said...


Thank you for this great post. It is very helpful!

I am so ready for a picnic!

I am packing this morning to go visit my parents this week and then next weekend to my Bible College alumni weekend. It will be a busy week but I should also be able to work on my book hopefully.

Have a great week every one!

Glynna Kaye said...

Terrific points and examples, Janet! Seeing the setting woven in through a character's personal "filters" rather than a straight, dry, story-stopping narrative makes such a stronger impact and increases the chances that the setting will linger in the mind of the reader.

lizzie starr said...

As a reader and writer of fantasy, setting is indeed important as part of building a world that might be just a bit--or a whole lot--different than what we're used to. One of my favorite fantasy/sci fi worlds is Anne McCaffrey's Pern. I feel I could go there and find my way with no problem.

I think I'd be joining the table with pottery and fabric placemats. Casual and set for lingering discussions.

Piper Huguley said...

A great post Janet,and a reminder to have some variety in the setting. I don't do that often enough. This can help to create tension and that's a good thing! I wonder why 12 seems to be the magic age for starting to write? It was for me and now at 12,DS writes his fan fiction. Let me help myself to the buffet while I think about it....:)

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jackie! My dad passed the oral stories down from his dad. My grandfather had an infectious laugh I can still hear in my head. :-)

Have fun with your setting!


Mary Hicks said...

Janet, great information! I'm making room in my bulging 'keeper' file for this one!

I tend to use my story setting like a jeweler uses black velvet to show you a diamond, it's just there, you don't 'see' it.

Thanks for reminding me how much the setting can enrich the story and make it more real for the reader.

I enjoyed reading the excerpts from your novels!

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Kav! I haven't had a chance to read Myra's new eBook but I will soon! Know I'll love the contrast of her settings.

Always excited by the hunt, I used to go to garage sales and flea markets. One time I took my mom and she bought these lovely plates for very little. Then spent a small fortune adding to the set. LOL

Your feline friends are more than welcome to lap milk from my pottery.


Dee LeRoye said...

What is it about that magical era?She wrote her first romantic story at age 11. It was based on a recurring daydream, for she had a crush on the hired man.
She was saved at age 11.
She wrote her first newspaper article at age 11.
She was me.
And I'll have breakfast at the old ranch on Mama's chipped plate that was so uneven on the bottom we called it "Spinny."

Janet Dean said...

Sleep tight, Jenny! Anyone know where that expression came from??

Janet, reliving her visit to Conner's Prairie near Indianapolis, IN.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Wilani Wahl! Have a great time visiting your parents and attending the Bible college reunion! Proud of you for planning to get some words written too. Yay, Speedbo!


Janet Dean said...

Thanks Glynna! Love that you referred to setting that's just tacked on with no real significance as story-stopping.

Happy Monday!


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Lizzie! Nice to have you at the pottery table. You may end up with a kitty in your lap. :-)

Writers of fantasy/sci-fi must build a world their readers will buy into. That has to be challenging. Thanks for sharing Pern as an example of a well-crafted setting that you feel you could walk into, and as you put it, find your way. That's a terrific compliment to the author!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Piper! Maybe twelve is the age that we start thinking about life and if we've been given a creative bent, we want to express ourselves through words or art.

Did you stick with writing as you got older or set it aside for years like I did?

Fun that your son is writing fan fiction!


Jeanne T said...

Janet, loved this. I hadn't considered the importance of knowing my characters and using that to craft a great setting. I'm glad you shared that.

As for tables, I think I'll go for the pottery table this morning. It sounds cozy and warm. :)

Loved this post!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Mary H. I'm delighted you enjoyed the excerpts and found the post helpful. Thanks!

One thing I love about writing Seekerville posts is that as I dig deep into a topic, I learn or relearn, too. The tricky part for me is remembering to use those craft techniques when putting words on the page. The reason I love cheat sheets and critique partners!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Dee Leroy! Thanks for sharing the story of your past and your mama's spinner plate! Hope you kept your stories!

My dh's mother's baby plate was made of tin and depicts Who Killed Cock Robin? This little robin has an arrow sticking out of its chest. Just seems wrong for a baby to eat off that. It too has a bowed bottom. I'll grab it and let's share one of the unset tables.


Janet Dean said...

Sorry, Dee, for leaving the e off LeRoye.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Jeanne T! Good to see the pottery tables filling up. Enjoy the breakfast buffet!

I'm glad you enjoyed the post! I used to think that settings were rarely characters but now I see that when they're important to the character and the plot, settings aren't window dressing. They're integral to the story.


Connie Queen said...

Janet, this is one of the many things my writing lacks. After I get the rough draft down, I plan on going back and layering in more setting to make the scenes more vivid.

As much as I dread setting, let's look at the bright side. It helps get the word count up...

Annie Rains said...

This is an area I struggle with, so thank you for a wonderful Monday morning post!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, Seekerville! I hope you're all wearing green :)

Jackie Smith said...

Very good Monday morning post, Janet!!
Please count me in for the A card!

Crystal Ridgway said...

Mmm, I think I'll be the first to take a seat at the table of fine China. It fits the historical era in which I write. Setting is SO important, and this post is GREAT!
Writing my books in the Reconstruction Period, I try to bring my historical towns to life. The rattling of wagons driving down the rutted street, clouds of dust shooting up around their wheels; Saloon girls hanging over the banisters and calling to male passerby, their brightly colored dresses with the corsets on the outside announcing just what they were offering; stepping into the general store and breathing in the scent of leather, pickles, and unwashed bodies. Etc, etc.

And not only is description and weather important to a compelling setting, so are the supporting characters you plant in the garden of your novel. If the secondary characters have little personality, they'll fade into the background and have little impact for the reader to take away from the novel. As writers, we need to remember that though our secondary characters are not the focus of our novel they DO have stories too. They have faults and strengths and quirks. Let it show.

Have a wonderful day everyone, I hope to see more folks joining this table soon!

Jennifer Smith said...

I'd use the table with disposable utensils and plates so I wouldn't have to do dishes! Lol...I'm working hard on getting the setting right in my book. I read Sarah E. Ladd's "Headmistress of Rosemere," and her setting on the wintry moores breathes almost like a character. I admired that about her book.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Janet,

Great post!! Love your examples. They really illustrate the points you were making.

I'll have to check my stories and see how I can enhance the settings!

I just finished a book called 'A Woman's Heart' that was set in Ireland and boy, was that setting magical. The author really made me feel like I was in Ireland. Fitting for St. Paddy's Day today! LOL.


Olivia said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day. Janet your blog has so helped me! My story is set in Ireland and you helped me to weave the smell of the peat block fires into the protagonist's cottage setting to give her nostalgia for the her "real" home. This morning I would choose the china setting and a few good friends to linger over tea on this blustery Tennessee day. Please consider me for the gift card.

Myra Johnson said...

I'm with HELEN--paper plates on a picnic table for me! WHERE IS SPRING????

Excellent instruction on setting, here, JANET! Loved revisiting all your beautifully written stories!

Setting plays a crucial role in my WWI series, set in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I really enjoyed digging into the history of the area and using tidbits gleaned from our many vacations there. The ease and availability of Internet research is always helpful, but nothing beats actually visiting a location and experiencing it firsthand.

In fact, I'm reading a great book right now by Lisa Wingate, The Prayer Box. It's really drawing me in with the North Carolina coastal setting.

Myra Johnson said...

KAV!!! Thanks so much for reading my book! It was such fun creating the flea market setting and characters. This was actually my first novel written with an Arkansas setting, and I'm glad it's finally seeing the light of day.

Now . . . praying the story will be well received and enjoyed! Waiting for those Amazon reviews to come in is always soooooo scary!!!!

DebH said...

Um, heading to the pottery table since it seems solid and long lasting. Fine china scares me and my clumsy fingers (what's with all the silverware???) My WIP setting is on a live-aboard dive boat so the paper stuff is too light - it'd blow away with the ocean breeze.

This is an awesome post Janet! Your examples are sooooooooooooooo helpful for a visual learner such as I. Happy dancing for being able to see how I can enhance my MS with this insight you've shared.

SPEEDBO: 1,234 words yesterday - misc writing since I'm a tad flustered with my synopsis *heavy sigh*

lizzie star! yes! Pern! I don't know how many times I've wished I could actually live there. Either there or Narnia...

Janet Dean said...

Hi Connie! Adding elements of setting that matter will up your word count. A win-win. :-) But, dreading it isn't fun. Perhaps you can see it as a board game with the characters moving within the setting. :-)

The setting in my wip needs to matter more and I will have to handle it during revisions. Sometimes ideas jump out at me, easy-peasy, but other times I overlook opportunities to enrich the scenes with setting.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Annie! Thanks! Good to see you this morning.

Oops, I'm not wearing green! I wore green last night at a St. Patrick's Day party. Does that count? If not, what's the penalty? A pinch?


Janet Dean said...

Hi Jackie! You're in for the Amazon gift card. Have a great day!


Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Crystal! I'm delighted you've decided to sit at the table with fine china. I too write historical fiction so I'll join you for lunch and we can talk about our novels. Most of my small town characters didn't have the wherewithal to own these beautiful dishes, but a few have.

I love the sound of your reconstruction novel. You make excellent points on the importance of painting a setting with such rich details that readers can see and hear and smell and touch the setting.

Secondary characters are such fun to write and enrich our stories. Thanks for sharing ways to bring them alive on the page.


Pam Hillman said...

I love it when setting is so well-done that I don't even really notice it.

I know that sounds weird, but when the setting fits the tone of the book so well, it's like all the props on a movie set that compliment the story so well that your eyes just go right over them.

Something out of a 2014 Ford Focus cruising along beside a herd of buffalo in an 1880s-era Western would give us whiplash!

That's the way it is with setting in a book. Done well, I don't really notice it...until it's pointed out like in Janet's excellent examples.

Done poorly, and it's like that Ford me whiplash!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jennifer. Sarah's novel is one I want to read! Thanks for the example of a setting that matters, that's so alive it breathes.


Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Sue. Thanks for sharing the Irish novel A Woman's Heart. Sounds like a great read!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love settings that draw me into the scene, Janet! Historicals get a little more leeway with this than contemporaries because you have to pull the reader into another place and time. You do it beautifully.


The cadence of those words sing off the page.

I'm dropping off strawberries dipped in green-tinted vanilla chocolate.... and marshmallows dipped in the same, then dipped in green sugar....

I love St. Patrick's Day, I love teaching little ones about Patrick's interesting life, his time as a slave, and his decision to become a man of God and preach to the Irish... What a blessing he was and is!

I've got Corned Beef dinner going in the crock pot Tina's recipe here:


And while it's crazy cold here, I've gotten 1500 words in today, so a great Monday so far!!!

Let's go, Speedbo!!!!

Kathryn Barker said...

I'm ready for a little orderliness in my life...I'd choose the fine china, crystal and the linen napkins and tablecloth...with someone to cook, serve and clean up...something like a scene from the dining room at Downton Abbey!

Your descriptions and explanations on settings are excellent...thank you! Will be taking a second look at what I've already written.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Olivia,

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I've heard that scents bring back memories more than other senses. Love how you're using the smell of burning peat to bring back a happier time for your character! I can imagine how the nostalgia those memories produce will add emotion to the story. Great job!

Bring your friends. Linger all day. Chat writing over tea. I'll pour.


Mary Connealy said...

Setting is so often a great 'character'. One of the reasons I like setting books in Montana and Wyoming and Colorado is between falling off cliffs and being hit by blizzards, there's hardly time to fall in love.
Throw in the occasional shooting and you've got a book.


Vince said...

Hi Janet:

Wonderful and informative post!

I’m a big fan of setting. My most viewed post ever is about setting. I like to think of setting as being the medium and not the backdrop. Think of the saying, “The medium is the message”. Then think of all the ways the medium can affect the message. Setting can do a lot of the work that usually falls on dialogue and action. Change the paradigm and view setting from this different POV. Watch your writing options expand.

Even a tiny drop of setting can pack a lot of power. Here’s a little quote from the opening of my favorite Dean novel:

She considered turning tail and scurrying home. But then she remembered the quiet, the emptiness of those rooms. She closed her eyes and set up a simple prayer. I don’t ask often, Lord, but I’m asking today. Please, let them say yes.

Squaring her shoulders, she crossed the room, then sat on one of the two chairs and faced the four men who held her future in their hands. To fill the vacant chair with something, she laid her purse on the seat, a seat that mocked her singleness.

Courting Miss Adelaide

What a phrase… “a seat that mocked her singleness”… is! It gets to the heart of the story. It’s as if Addy’s thoughts foreshadow the heart of the story. One little drop in just the right spot. It is so much like the rest of your writing.

Please don’t forget “Miss Addy”.
Didn’t she bring you to the dance? : )

Janet Dean said...

Hi Myra! Thanks!

I loved your WWI setting and the story! You obviously had done lots of research.

The setting for Lisa Wingate's The Prayer Box sounds interesting. Fun to read to see how writers use that setting to impact their characters and plot.

Looking forward to reading Pearl of Great Price!


Janet Dean said...

Hi DebH! Congratulations on the Word Count! You're rocking in Speedbo!

A live aboard dive boat sounds perfect for keeping the hero and heroine together all the time!

I'm delighted the excerpts helped you see my points. I learn the same way.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Pam, thanks for making this point and reminding us that if we don't do the research and keep the setting true to the time period, our readers will not only be jerked from the story, they'll be mad. Research is vital, even writing contemporary fiction.


Janet Dean said...

Thanks for your kind words, Ruthy, and a bigger thanks for the corned beef and delicious, beautiful treats! I wrote my post earlier and forgot this was St. Patrick's Day. Shame on me!

I don't know much about Patrick. Care to tell us more?

I'm going to hop over to the Yankee Belle Café to view Tina's recipe. I had my corned beef and cabbage last night. Oh, and a Rueben Saturday. I love corned beef! I will definitely make this.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Kathryn! I am sad the season for Downton Abbey is so short or so it always seems to me! But, we can play ladies of the manor with the fine china and crystal. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Hi Mary. Your settings just leap off the page. They definitely are a character and certainly challenge the hero and heroine!

I actually had a shooting in my wip. Not on stage. That's a bit too violent for me, but still you may be rubbing off on me.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Janet, this is really a great post and it's so great I am sharing with several writers. THANK YOU!!

Janet Dean said...

Oh, Vince, you have a poet's heart. When Adelaide entered the room, all she could see were those two chairs meant for a married couple. Because the committee didn't expect any single person to apply. I worked on that line forever, writing and rewriting until it read smoothly and got the point across.

I'd never ignore Miss Adelaide, my debut, but I don't have the book on my laptop and couldn't grab an excerpt quickly. But, then you went to the trouble to type a passage. Thank you.

I hope everyone will jump over to the archives for your post on setting. You said: Using setting expands the writers options. That is the point of the post.


Janet Dean said...

Thank you, Tina! That's lovely of you.


Pegg Thomas said...

Hahahaha! Guess who FINISHED her novel plotting this morning. Go ahead... guess!

Thank you, Speedbo gals, for the push to keep going!

Amy C said...

I just love a novel setting in Ireland. That's where my family is from and love to read about it.
Guess it's only fitting to say Happy St Patrick's Day

Jana Vanderslice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jana Vanderslice said...

It took me a while but I got it! Which table "setting" would you choose? Very fun & clever! I would sit at the table with the china.

My favorite setting of all time is C.S.Lewis "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" where it is "always winter and never Christmas". It gets me every time. When I was teaching, I read this aloud every Christmas. Even my big kids loved it!

Thank you, Janet! This was another great article to put in my SpeedBo notebook. It will have plenty of highlights and notes in the margins!

Crystal Ridgway said...

Speedbo update: 6K yesterday, 0 today. Had to go out and buy groceries.

Ooh, Janet, you put a shooting in? Please tell me its a shootout. I love those. Goodness, I'm not even going to try counting how many people 'I've' shot. I actually didn't shoot anybody until my third ms, and in my first one the hero didn't even THINK about a firearm, let alone carry one. Now I look backal and think, "Oh, he was a wimp." The way I see it, when you sling a revolver (or two) low on the hero's hip and tie it down, it communicates to the reader that he's a MAN. Not just a man, but a big brave strong man. Add spurs and a Stetson, and you can't go wrong.

Janet Dean said...

Wahoo, Pegg!! Congratulations on plotting that novel!! Onward and upward! You're full speed ahead!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Amy C, I'm intrigued by Irish settings too. And I can't trace my roots to Ireland.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you and your family!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Jana. Glad you got my hopefully humorous example of setting. I'm sure people would behave differently depending which table they chose.

I'm tickled pink that this post will be tucked into your Speedbo notebook. And that you're making notes in the margins. Putting things in my own words always helps me "get it."


Jana Vanderslice said...

One more note on settings…
MARY CONNEALY writes the most accurate Texas books of any author I have read! It drives me crazy to read books set in Texas that have the details totally wrong. Way to Go, MARY!!!! And she doesn’t even live here! :)

Crystal Ridgway said...

Backal??? Stupid smartphone. ;-)

Janet Dean said...

Crystal, 6k is awesome!!! I'm totally impressed.

Actually two shootings happened before the book opens. One was a shoot out and brought the hero and heroine together. The second is seen in flashback, a ride by shooting. :-) I loved TV westerns that were so popular before your time and all those hunky cowboys and sheriff had guns riding their hips and they used them regularly.


Meghan Carver said...

Hi, Janet! I'm choosing the table with pottery and fabric placemats. Not so elegant I don't know where to put my fork, but more homey and welcoming than the paper plates.

Thank you for all your wonderful examples of setting. It's such an important part, but I'm always afraid of over-doing it, so I wonder if I'm not doing enough. I'm saving this post and going over it again in the future.

Chill N said...

A setting I have never forgotten: the small town in To Kill a Mockingbird. The characters reflected how the town had helped shape them and their viewpoints. And of course I saw the town/setting through Scout's eyes, which was never boring.

The other settings I've never forgotten are the sailing ships in the Patrick O'Brian books on which the movie Master and Commander was based. Not that I'd ever wanted to sail in the early 1800s ... but if I had, those descriptions of below deck would have cured me :-)

Enjoyed your post and the examples, Janet. Especially this: "Once we know our characters, we’ll know what about this place, about this time, impacts the characters and the story we want to tell. Then we’ll show the setting through their eyes and the setting will matter."

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Nancy C

Heidi said...

Great examples of using setting effectively! Put me in for the giveaway please!

Piper Huguley said...


Yes, I was like you and put it aside for years at a time, but I'm glad that we both got better sense and we are back!

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Janet! What a great post, and one I think I'll bookmark and look back on. Your way of incorporating the setting into your examples was marvelous. Making them part of the story you're telling, rather than just "OK, reader, here's a little interlude into setting. Hang tight, we'll get back to the story in a few hundred words."

The setting is a big part of my first novel, which takes place in a fictional town in Nebraska. Since most people think of Nebraska as being "cow and corn country," I made my town set in a place that is definitely NOT like that. Much of eastern Nebraska, is, in fact, not just fields of corn and soybeans. It's hilly, green, and awash with trees. So, how to convey that without bogging it down? Well, I wrote some really flowery descriptions that I loved, then decided it was too much. But I LOVED those passages. What to do? I ended up using pieces of them, as the MC (who isn't from the area) sees it for the first time. She's browsing through a brochure she's given about the area, and contrasting the over-the-top passages she reads with the cynical, not-impressed teenager in her mind. I hope it works!

Have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Meghan, as with all craft techniques, knowing how much takes practice. Sometimes we can feel how much is right or wrong in our gut, but other times it's a matter of trial and error.

Feedback from contests and critique partners helps too. Fresh eyes are invaluable.

The main point of my post is that writers shouldn't merely describe the environment, they should write descriptions that impact and reveal the character and the plot. When they do, readers won't skip over the setting.


Courtney Phillips said...

I'm big on setting. If a book is set in the South, I'm more likely to read it. Or England or the beach.
But too much description definitely makes me skim. I want to know enough to "live" the scene, but that's all. My imagination fills in the gaps anyway.

Please enter me :) I made my writing goal already today, but I've been slacking lately.Got to move on and get my WIP finished.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Nancy C! I want to reread To Kill a Mockingbird. I know I'd learn a lot from how the setting and characters interact. Thanks for reminding me!

Historical fiction is often romanticized but when the time period is more reality based, most of us would be cured of wanting to travel back in time.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Heidi. Thanks for stopping in! You're in the drawing.


Janet Dean said...

Piper, here's to us and anyone else who postponed using the gift until just the right time. :-) At least that's how I choose to see it.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Stephanie, you're using setting in a clever way to show the character. Great job! There's many ways we can do this, but yours is one I hadn't thought of.
Thanks for sharing.


Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon Courtney! Congrats on the word count and on catching up on those days that life got in the way. Wishing you all the best on finishing!


Angel Moore said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on setting. It's a delicate balance between too much and not enough. I must admit to glossing over some of the details during Speedbo. I'm hoping to fill in any gaps at the end. Thank God the words are making their way onto the page. This is my most productive day yet. I'm determined to finish strong. :)

Julie Lessman said...

WOW, WOW, WOW, JANET!!! What a FAB blog today, my friend -- I LOVE seeing examples from your books (makes me want to reread them!!), and you absolutely NAILED it on setting!! Tina always talks about keeper blogs being those that are a "workshop in a blog," and this is definitely one!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Angel. Pulling for you! Thanks for taking time to stop in and read my post. You can work in some setting that matters during revisions.


Janet Dean said...

Thank you, Julie! I was concerned the post might be too much information to absorb, but then decided it would be used more as a resource than a one time lesson.


Debby Giusti said...


You weave story, character and setting together so artfully. Thanks for sharing the wonderful excerpts that highlight the beauty and clarity of your writing.

I always love your word choice and the rhythm of your prose. Your voice speaks to my heart!!!

I'm sitting at the pottery table. I'm sure it's Polish pottery, which I love. In fact, I'm sipping tea from one of my own Polish pottery mugs. Army wives, who have lived in Europe, especially Germany, have Polish pottery so the table setting reminds me of my military roots. :)

Olivia said...

Finished 1000 plus words using some of the wonderful "weaving" techniques that Janet shared. Right now I am waiting for a new ebook: Speedbo!
You awesome ladies need to turn the blogs into chapters so we can have all these techniques and skills stored in one place! I print and underline but would so love it as a published download

Janet Dean said...

Thanks so much, Debby, for your sweet words!

The pottery is indeed Polish, each plate and accessory is a different pattern but the main colors of deep blue and green keep the look unified. It's so cool that the pottery remind you of your military roots. God bless our military and you for having written their stories.


Janet Dean said...

Wow, Olivia, you make a Seekerville writing manual sound very tempting! I learn something from every post. Isn't it wonderful to have so many hard working writers to share the journey with?


Pat W said...

Hello Janet, loved your post. Thanks for all your tips and for putting examples from your books in for us to read. I'm one of those people who learn from seeing examples.

Got 1856 words written today. Made up for not writing on the weekend. I'm going to the picnic so I'll be needing paper plates. I know me. I would break anything else :00

Haven Brown said...

Has anyone read Spring for Susannah? I love the setting. The author really seems to drag you into Dakota Territory. (I didn't want to leave.) I don't usually dedicate paragraphs to setting because I get bored myself. When I do write about setting I get really excited about it. Mama's kitchen. Jack's barn. The scripture on the living room walls. I like my characters to notice the home out of the house.
Enjoyed the post. Thank you!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Pat W! Glad the post worked for you!

Mega congratulations on 1856 words written!!! That's awesome! Go you!!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Haven,

You're welcome. A homey house would be especially significant to someone who'd never lived in one. Great details to give that sense of home.

I haven't read Spring for Savannah. Dakota territory would interest me!


LeAnne Bristow said...

Wow! Ask and ye shall receive! This is one area I've really struggled with, going from one extreme to the next...first too much...then not enough. One book that I think of when I think about stories that have a setting that I've never forgotten is "The Secret Garden." I loved the way the garden changed and grew throughout the story.
By the way...I'm headed straight to pottery table...the colorfulness of it appeals to me :)

Mark Abel said...

Hi Janet,
Thanks for your post and effort in writing it. The examples are excellent and opened my eyes. You share a variety of creative ways to blend the goals and challenges of the craft. Thanks again much appreciated and very helpful. Mark

Sandra Leesmith said...

Ah JANET, a writer after my heart. I love the settings of stories and think they are just as important as the character. I really get excited when its a new setting, one I don't know yet. I love it when an author includes the setting in their novels. You always do a terrific job with that. Thanks for the pointers on how to do it.

Janet Dean said...

Hi LeAnne,

When I first heard that I should use setting for more than just telling the reader what the area or town looked like, it was a new idea for me and not easy to understand and implement. I've since seen that I can pack a lot of emotion into interaction with the setting. Of course any technique can be overdone.

Thanks for reminding us of The Secret Garden and how the setting was a character in it's own right.


We'll soon be enjoying Tina's crockpot corned beef on this St. Patrick's Day.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Mark, Glad the post was helpful to you. Thanks for stopping in!


Janet Dean said...

Good evening, Sandra! Your kind words are a blessing. Thanks!

I agree that reading about a new setting is fun. Even more so when the writer shows us how that story could not have been written anywhere else.


Jenny Blake said...

Janet I know where the sleep tight came from.
originally beds were made with ropes and the expression came from the ropes being tight. you wanted to go to bed on a bed with tight ropes not loose ones. Therefore it became sleep tight.

Liz Flaherty said...

Hi, Janet. What a great post!

LoRee Peery said...

Great post. Settings are important to me as a reader and a writer. I rarely turn on my PC on Sundays so I had to do double word count today. Morning person that I'm not, I had it at 12:30. Then I went through 4 days of emails and I'm done-in... thanks to all the Speedbo pray-ers.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jenny! Bingo! You got it right! The ropes that held the straw or wool ticking could get loose and be tightened with a little gadget. Just love knowing that many expressions come from history.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Liz. Thanks. Always great to see you here!


Janet Dean said...

Hi LoRee. You made up for lost time! Wow!

I'm grateful, too, for those praying for everyone doing Speedbo.


Becke said...

Well put.
I agree with a little bit goes a long way. Too much setting and I'm skipping to dialogue. I especially liked your examples to tie setting to the character. To me, those are the most effective. All roads in a good story lead to the character(s).

Janet Dean said...

Hi Becke! I agree. Setting can serve many purposes for the writer and the story, but for me, character is key.


Cara Lynn James said...

Great post, Janet. Setting is always a character to me. When I write a story it can take place is only one location. If I change the setting then it's an entirely different story.

Mary Connealy said...

Jana Vanderslice Thank you so much.
Now I'm scared. If I've been doing okay for you so far now if I mess up what happens???

THE PRESSURE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Elaine Manders said...

I know this is late, but I have a question. I've taken a break from my Speedbo WIP to edit on another. This scene is set at a ball and description is necessary to show the hero worried his new wife will feel out of place in the opulent surroundings. It's done pretty well, but I'm thinking a man wouldn't notice some of the things I'm describing. Should I change to the heroine POV? Does it matter?

Debby Giusti said...

Stopping back to wish everyone a Happy ST Patrick's Day!!!

What was I thinking earlier?

Begosh and begorrha! I'm raising a cup of green tea in honor of the Irish!

Janet Dean said...

Wonderful point, Cara! I loved your Newport, RI setting!


Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Wow, Janet! This was an excellent post! A must print to refer to while editing! Thank you for sharing it!

Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Elaine,

Is this a Regency? Sounds like a wonderful hero.

I usually try to put the scene in the character's POV that has the most to lose. That could be either the husband or the wife in your story.

If he's more worried about her acceptance than she is, then stick with his POV. He could still notice opulent elements of the setting, but would describe them in more masculine terms. Or even be irked by all the finery and opulence, all the window dressing that covers a lack of kindness.

If you want to show her as a duck out of water, then use her POV. She would notice the setting, perhaps in detail but might not know what to call everything. She might or might not "get" that she'd been snubbed or cut. If he comes to the rescue that could touch her or even embarrass her, depending on who she is.

Since you asked for my opinion, I'd probably go with her POV. She could find the setting gorgeous or unsettling then see him watching her, ready to come to her rescue. She'd paste on that smile, act strong, even if inside she was dying.

Hope I haven't made you more confused! Let me know what you decide.


Janet Dean said...

I'm sipping that green tea, Debby. Should've had a green buffet today!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Eva Maria!

Thanks! I'm always excited when a post gets printed.


Tanya Agler said...

Dear Janet,

I loved your comment to Piper about cheers to anyone who postponed using his or her gift until the right time. Thank you.

Thanks also for your blog today. I would head to the pottery plates and fabric placemats. It seems like home, and my books revolved around characters finding their way home.

Met my Speedbo goal late today, but in enough time to spend some time here.


Emily Neyer said...

Janet--I was late getting to the blog today and so I just read your post. What great wisdom! I always talk with my students about how an important element of a story that we examine is the setting, but yet as a writer I am not sure I do well with this. I am only working on my first ms right now and it is a MAJOR WIP but I think once I get the story down one of the first things I will do is go back and place some more emphasis on the setting. I agree with the comment made by Ruth that historicals have a bit of an easier time with setting because the time and place are often so crucial to the story. I am writing a contemporary story so the setting is not coming as readily. But I will get there.

As for the meal? I would probably take the paper plates because I am accident prone and would break something. :)

Thanks for the words of wisdom for this newbie to the writing world.

Elaine Manders said...

Thanks Janet, your advice has been a big help.

Janet Kerr said...

This is a fantastic post Janet.
I am going to go over it again because it is a great teaching tool on setting.
Tanks so much!

Mary Preston said...

As a reader I do like to be able to picture the setting, place the characters.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Tanya. A heartfelt thanks for your comments. I had a great day in Seekerville sharing conversation and food.

Congratulations on making your goal yesterday! Proud of you. Enjoy the journey!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Emily! Contemporary settings may not need as much description, but when your characters see elements of their surroundings through their eyes, with their wounds and hopes, even the smallest details can matter.

May God bless you in the classroom and with your story.


Janet Dean said...

Whew, I'm relieved, Elaine. Thought I might've really muddied the waters.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Jan,

You're welcome. I plan to print and refer to the post myself. I know this stuff but remembering to do it isn't a given. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Hi Mary P. Readers deserve our best so they'll be swept away and will make the journey with the characters. Thanks for stopping in Seekerville!


Mindy Hardwick said...

I love setting and have found that by creating a rich and deep setting it can often carry more than one story. I enjoyed all your examples and especially resonated with seeing the setting through the eyes of the character. I am bookmarking this post!

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...


Such wise words and I love how you categorize, then give examples. Definitely!

One of the best setting writers in the current era I've read is

I learned SO much from reading her Christy award winning Legends of the Guardian King series. You. Are. There. Amazing writing.

I've recently read Eragon by Paolini - and I'm still digesting that he was FIFTEEN when he began writing it and was published a short few years later. His descriptions are astonishing as well.

Thanks for another excellent lesson!

Walt Mussell said...

I'm a day late to your post, Janet.

When I think of setting, I almost think of two levels. For some stories, setting does play a poignant reminder to how hero and heroine both view the world.

However, in the case of a book like Gone With the Wind, I almost think of the setting as a seprate character.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Mindy! You're right, a well-developed setting begs for more stories. Great point!


Janet Dean said...

Hi KC! I need to check out the writers you recommend.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Walt,

Some settings like GWTW are so rich and important that we think of them as characters. But really all settings should carry that weight. At least make them a secondary character. :-)


Patricia W said...

Settings that are unusual and which the author really brings to life are unforgettable. Janice Sims did that with American Beach (the previously all-Black beach near Jacksonville, FL during segregation). There was a romance I read set in Monserrat, where the beaches had black sand. I remember the place, not the story or the author.