Places Are Important Too: Bring Your Book to Life (Part 2)

Places Are Important Too: Bring Your Book to Life (Part 2)

Lori Freeland You might’ve heard that setting can be a character in your story. But did you know that setting can be as crucial to your story as your character? Location matters. Imagine if The Shining took place in a quaint bed and breakfast with an uplifting soundtrack? Or if the house Noah lovingly built for Allie in The Notebook turned out to be haunted like the mansion in The Haunting of Hill House ? The way you stage the setting in your story deepens the experience for both the character and the reader. Whether you’re being blatant or subtle, dropping heavy detail or sprinkling light clues, how you present a place tells readers how to feel about it. We tend to form impressions of people the first time we meet them—whether we mean to or not. We do the same with places. The first time a new setting is introduced, the reader will form a lasting impression. That’s the image they’ll pull up on their mental movie screen every time that location makes an appearance. Let’s make sure they’re seeing what you want them to see and feeling what you want them to feel. In BRING YOUR BOOK TO LIFE PART I, we talked about character descriptions. If you missed that post, you can find it here: Characters Are People Too . THE SET UP The Unveiling Readers can’t see what you don’t show. Give the most description the first time we visit a new place, or all the reader will see is a white room. Example: The city of Runaway hit its peak in the late ’60s with a storefront combination city hall, sheriff’s office, pizza place, post office, and library—if library meant a couple hundred donated paperback romance novels. Example: The sixties had birthed this office. Shaggy avocado carpet covered the floor. Old books with multicolored spines bulged from bowed shelves that lined two of the four walls floor to ceiling. The hulking bookcases gave the room an I’m-closing-in-on-you feel. Consider pointing out what’s not there—or what’s missing that should be there—to help paint a strong picture. Example: There were no couches or lounges. Just an ugly metal desk, a tall gray filing cabinet, and two retro command chairs that could have come off the set of the original Star Trek. The Return When you take us back to a place you’ve already introduced, give a small reminder that brings back your original description. Example: I leaned against the hulking bookcase and glanced down at the stiff shag carpet wondering just how crunchy it would feel under my toes if I kicked off my shoes. Universal Places Sometimes you don’t need an actual physical description. Using common places that most people are familiar with gives an immediate picture. Example: If Gwyn had to spend one more second pushing through the crowd at Macy’s, this would be her last ever black Friday. It works the same way with phrases. And places can have personalities too. Example: It […]

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