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Friday, October 31, 2014

Getting the setting right in your book

As an author for little over a year I'm not an expert. This is an area I'm still perfecting along with a few others. In Eye of The Storm I chose Virginia even though the area is fictional and never points directly as to where the book takes place in my mind it was Virginia. After all, where else can someone tumble down a mountain, hit her head, and survive? Certainly not the Rockies.

Setting is difficult to get right. All readers vary in how much or how little and which senses they want tantalized which makes getting the right amount of detail difficult for the author.
For example:

A scowl washed across Jim's face as he slammed his mug onto the table. Coffee sloshed over the side leaving small droplets on the desk.

As opposed to:
Jim twisted his lips into a scowl. His nostrils flared and wild hairs tickled the bridge with the gust of heated air that blew through his nose. He slammed down his mug with such force the desk shook. Coffee spilled over the side leaving droplets that bubbled around the mug slowly moving toward the edge of the desk, teasing to roll off and hit the floor. The dark mahogany desk contrasted sharply with the gray walls while the flourescent lights flickered causing Jim's bald head to glow.

Either of those could be thought of as good descriptions or not depending on the reader. Too much description too much of the time can throw off the reader. I've read those books that were so inundated with setting the setting that my mind was distracted from the actual plot. I have also read books that left me screaming for setting details.

As A writer trying to balance them is difficult. In As Snow Falls the prologue begins with a colorful, detailed description of the cabin and mountain top. I have had many readers who loved the way I opened the novel and felt it really set the stage for the book. Other reads have said I should have had less description.

In Baby Girl I've had readers that said they loved the visual descriptions but yearned for more sensory details such as sounds and scents. Other readers said I had the perfect balance.

Each author has their own style and each book is different. In my opinion the readers are the experts and I and every other author will never find the perfect balance to meet all their needs but I do take their comments seriously and use them as I work through a rough draft and set the scene for the book and I have grown as an author.

I think the best advice is to use enough sensory detail to set the scene and tickle as many senses as possible without overstimulating the reader so they forget the plot. I would also highly suggest getting some beta readers who you know will be honest with you.  With Eye of The Storm I enlisted several beta readers who all had something different to say about the book. I used their critiques to further edit the book and can only think they helped me to make the book stronger.

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