Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ways to Make Your Settings Memorable

When researching a place that you plan to use in your next book, pay attention to details. I don't mean that you should make the description of a place sound like a travelogue, but there are simple things that you can note and put in your manuscript that will deliver the essence of the place.

Decide on what time of year the story will take place--or the particular scenes and find out what the weather is like during that time period. If the area is prone to hurricanes, do you want to add a hurricane to the story? Or a tornado? Or a dust storm? Or a snow storm. Weather can add a lot to a plot. And if you are going to use something like that, then of course you must do some research as to what goes on during an event like this. What do people experience, how do they feel, what do they do?

Be sure to include colors in the descriptions of your settings. Too often people leave color out. When I see some of the wonderful photos of skies on Facebook, I often jot down the colors shown in the sunset, the storm clouds, the sunrise.

Sounds are important. Does the clock in the village square signal the time? Or does a nearby church/cathedral have chimes that play at the quarter hours? This could be important to the plot. An old car going down the road sounds different than a brand new one. Going back to storms, the all have significant sounds that go along with them--except snow which can be really quiet. When someone is walking through snow or mud, how does that sound? The sound of an ocean is very different from that of a river. Sounds should be part of the backdrop of your story.

And don't forget smells. When you near the ocean you can smell the salt water. A dead body smells after a few hours. A flower garden has wonderful scents. Every house has it's own smells. This morning I could tell my neighbor was cooking bacon. And people have their tell-tale smell: perspiration, sweat, perfume, shampoo. It's up to you to come up with the descriptive words to go along with whatever smell you're writing about.

I'm sure there's more I could say, but this gives you the basic idea. Let us experience the setting through the senses just as your character does.

Marilyn

3 comments:

Lorna Collins - said...

i try to use all senses, including taste. seems like our characters are always eating, but that helps set the scene, too. I've used Thanksgiving dinner to engage characters. And imagine them sitting down to a hearty bowl of homemade soup with fresh veggies on a cold and blustery fall evening. Guess I'm ready for autumn to arrive after all the hot weather!

M.M. Gornell said...

Excellent post!

Madeline

Kathy said...

Excellent post, Marilyn
I spent many summer vacations in a tourist area in the Adirondack Mountains and finally used it as a setting--during a heat wave in late May through June. It really worked and I like your idea of the 'street' sounds such as the cars and church bells. thanks for reminding me to keep up the research.
kathy cottrell