Friday, October 14, 2011

Creating Settings in Novels

Photo by Karol Pomplin

There are a million places to visit and yet we get stuck on settings when writing. Well, at least some of us do.

For those of you who need help with setting, I hope this blog post sparks an idea.

First of all, I'd like to give a shout-out to Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. THANK YOU for creating the Bookshelf Muse. I use it every day and I'm sure those of you who know about it do too. I can't live without it!

A setting thesaurus along with many other useful thesauruses are listed on their home page for your convenience. Don't miss out!

After reading Donald Maass's writing books, one thing that sticks in my head is: Do NOT set a scene in the kitchen.

It's very easy to have your characters eating around the table, sipping coffee, and not moving the scene forward. Which is a great reminder.

Keep the scene active.


It's also important to make readers feel they are there. Don't forget to show how character's respond to their surroundings.

What does she hear?

Sensory details can make a scene come to life.

Over the years, I've compiled a list of potential settings. It's a short one so please feel free to leave a comment and add to the list.

Golf course
Farmers market
Local park or a National Park
Art theatre
Doctors office
Amusement park (Disneyland/Funworks)
Roadside Diner
Coffee shop
Cruise ship
A firefighter/police ride along

And we musn't forget about Google Earth. Lots of great info.

Last but not least, here are a few great articles that are very useful:

Brandilyn Collins on Description and Setting

How to Master settings in novels

Seekerville touches base on the importance of setting HERE

Creative settings pictures that cold possiblly spark ideas 

How about you, how do you come up with settings? Any other places come to mind to add to the list?


Ambrielle Kirk said...

Awesome post, Mart. I do remember setting a couple of my scenes in the kitchen though. Something about food, lol! I also love Donald Maas books. They're so motivating.

ambrielle kirk

Anonymous said...

Martha, I have a problem with blogger, so I post as "anon." This is Florence from Ramblings and our GIAM group.

I have the good fortune of being born, first-gen Italian, raised in Brooklyn, moved to Manhattan's Washington Heights, worked with exchange librarians, spent summers in Poughkeepsie and the mountains, vacationed all over the Jersey Shore, The Hamptons and Fire Island. If I ever run out of settings, I should shoot myself. Use Google earth to find places all over the planet,and zero in on the exact house or block, the village where my father grew up in Italy, where my neice was raised in Paris. The kitchen? Well sometimes when you do a piece about family, the dinning room table or the kitchen, a family owned restaurant, a bakery where my character's best friend works ... visits to fab Greek diners, people in clubs, drinking, the local watering hole, the roadside diner, a character's mother who is a cook, a lover who is a chef. Donald Maass is the greatest teacher since the year of the flood ... yet his words can be taken with a "grain" ... whole grain loaf of bread and sliced to perfection without losing the great scenes that can take place in a crazy Italian house while consuming pasta fagioli :)

Martha Ramirez said...

Ambrielle--yes I'm guilty too. I love food LOL. And yes. Donald is indeed so motivating and so amazing.

Florence--what a great list you got there! As I read it I imagined every detail. I must be the Italian in you:)And what a background you have.

Yes--Donald is the greatest teacher. I wish I could meet him in person:)

Sheri Fredricks said...

Great reminders and links - as always. I love the Bookshelf Muse too. I don't know what I'd do without them.

Martha Ramirez said...

Sheri--Thank you so much!

Daryl said...

Do not set your scene in a kitchen - yeah - another rule for me to break.

Good post.

Martha Ramirez said...

LOL Daryl!

Lia Davis said...

Some real interesting conversations come up around food. lol. Great post and links!

Martha Ramirez said...

Lia--VERY true!

Brenda said...

Ah my sweet, Mart. What a great post. I also read the Bookshelf Muse everyday.

Martha Ramirez said...

Thank you Brenda!!

D'Ann said...

I always set scenes in kitchens. And barns. yeah, barns. My heros are always cowboys. They eat, they ride. What can I say?

When I read that, it sounds dirty...hehehehe....

Ella Quinn said...

Great post. I use carriages, dining rooms, breakfast rooms, bedchambers, morning rooms, parlors, ballrooms, libraries, gardens, terraces, barns, and innss You get the picture.


Martha Ramirez said...

Thank you D'Ann and Marion!

Becca Puglisi said...

Great tips for settings here. Thanks so much for the shout out, Martha. And the reminder about kitchens. I know this rule, but every time I revise a novel, I find a kitchen scene to rewrite. How DO they keep sneaking in??

Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

martha ramirez said...

Becca, my pleasure. I know, kitchen scenes pop up in mine too.

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks so much for the mention--I am so happy to know our site continues to help. For me, when I determine a setting for a scene, I look at what my emotional goal is for the scene and then think about what place in the character's world will create the most tension to fit the scene. If the goal is to make my character feel self conscious & unsure of herself, I put her on display by using a high school hallway as the backdrop for the action. If I need her to be afraid, I find a place that throws her off her game--a dark country road at night, a row of abandoned warehouses or maybe a ramshackle house that oozes creepy.

Setting is so much more than a backdrop, isn't it?

Have a great week!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Martha Ramirez said...

What a GREAT tip, Angela! Thank you!! I will def be using that whe I plot the next project.

Laura Pauling said...

It's so true! Out of all the wonderful places to set a book and we go to the kitchen. Though I do have one of those but it's not the opening scene! Maybe I'll have to relook at that. :)

Martha Ramirez said...

Lol Laura. I know it:)It's easy to do.

Matthew MacNish said...

Sorry you missed the blogfest, but I stopped by to follow your blog anyway. You could always visit the blogs on the list and introduce yourself.

Martha Ramirez said...

Thank you, Matthew!

Gail Shepherd said...

Oh my god, I have kitchen scenes in my current WIP! Must rid myself of these clunkers. Thank you.

Mart Ramirez said...

Gail no worries lol. We are all guilty.