Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Setting Philly 1

I am home. It is good.

I promised pictures and discussion of setting today, and I'm delivering now. I'm going to stick to some of the basic points that I try to do with my setting. I'll probably post one new thought today and another on Friday. Just because I don't think my mind has recovered enough for more than one fully-formed tip. Hang in with me a bit.  

In the middle of downtown Philadelphia is Rittenhouse Square. It's this beautiful tree filled park surrounded by tall buildings and rushing business people. I love it. Depending on the lighting and the emotion, this place can look either like nature at war with the city, or nature in harmony with the city. It all depends how you play it. This is part of my focus today. Setting is relative. This photo (and more to come) are from this park.

SETTING - Finding a middle ground

There is definitely such a thing as too much AND too little when it comes to setting description. Too much, and the reader loses track of (and interest in) the plot. Too little and everything is occurring in a white room. I also like to try to think a little abstractly when it comes to description. I try to describe the setting through the eyes of my character. How would they see it? Then the description reveals both the setting and adds a new dimension to my character.

The middle ground is also a great territory to hang out when it comes to metaphors and similes. I try not to go with too common ones, but I also don't want to go so far into left field that it pulls the reader out of the story. This is another situation where the comparisons the main character makes can reveal a lot.

For example, in INSOMNIA, there is a line that says, "one fact kept bobbing back up to the surface like a body that wasn't weighed down properly". Is this line creepy? Quick, everyone nod together now. Of course it's creepy, but it gives some real insight into the state/mind of the main character.


Can you think of a book you read recently where the description was done well? What did you like about it?

I'll be back Friday with more thoughts on setting...and more pictures of Philly!


  1. Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready. I've never been to Scotland and Ireland, but this author really can paint a setting. Loved it!! The setting also intertwined with the story and it almost became its own character.
    Ahhh Philly. I live in the burbs of it so I know it well.

    1. Ooh! I love Scotland and Ireland. I definitely need to read Shine! Thanks for the rec! :)

  2. I'm learning how to write setting into my story. I went from writing fantasy (where setting = everything) to contemporary YA (where I didn't want to box my readers into a certain place). But after a reader said, "your novel is all dialogue"...I've been really going through and changing that :)
    A great YA that recently came out with superb setting is WHAT HAPPENS NEXT by Colleen Clayton. The setting is a character in itself.....and I loved the book all the more for it!

    1. I started off feeling the same way. Insomnia is set in a fictional mid-western town because I wanted my reader to be able to picture it anywhere. This new project is so urban that it really adds a lot to make it a specific place and use real things. I've enjoyed writing both ways. :)

      Wow! That sounds great! I'll have to check it out.