Monday, May 28, 2018

7 Steps to a Better Setting

They walked into the house. It was dark and deserted.

Boring! People walk into dark empty houses every day. Reader puts the book down... Even if they all died, it would probably be from boredom! Though the above is an extreme bad-case scenario of a poor setting--all tell and no show--many new and some experienced writers forget the need to enhance a scene from the very beginning, eager to get to the action. But a truly good writer remembers...

Every opening sentence should tell a story in itself.

And here's my little ol' advice for setting a stimulating scene...

1) Who are they? -- Names or Descriptions of the group are always a better opening than a pronoun, especially for a new scene or chapter.

The twins and their two new friends...

Already more interesting!

2) How do they feel? -- Are they Happy? Hopeful? Anxious? Annoyed? Afraid? Curious? or What? And don't say it, show it with actions and expressions.

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every step...

3) What do they Hear? Taste? Feel? Smell? -- Immerse yourself in the scene and use all your senses. But notice, I didn't say "See?" yet. For now, Listen, Sniff, and Reach out!

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every squeaky step. Though the cleansing smell of fresh rain lingered in the air, the cool breeze made Kita shiver...

4) Where are they? -- A strange place? Familiar? Off-limits? Hideout? What's going on around them?

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every squeaky step. Though the cleansing smell of fresh rain lingered in the air, the cool breeze made Kita shiver. She peered over her shoulder as if sensing a presence behind her but saw only the overgrown bushes and full, leafy trees hiding the distant dirt road...

5) When is it? Is the time period a factor? Or just, what time of day is it?

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every squeaky step. Though the cleansing smell of fresh rain lingered in the air, the cool breeze made Kita shiver. She peered over her shoulder as if sensing a presence behind her but saw only the overgrown bushes and full, leafy trees hiding the distant dirt road and spreading long shadows as the sun dozed off.

6) What do they see? Now open the reader's eyes with little details that enhance and move the scene along.

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every squeaky step. The paint on the door was chipped, and dead leaves littered the porch. Though the cleansing smell of fresh rain lingered in the air, the cool breeze made Kita shiver. She peered over her shoulder as if sensing a presence behind her but saw only the overgrown bushes and full, leafy trees hiding the distant dirt road and spreading long shadows as the sun dozed off. Kita frowned.

Kan shook his head at his sister...

7) Now that you've hooked the reader, bring it all together. This is what keeps a reader up at night, wondering what happens next!

The twins and their two new friends crept up the stairs, cringing with every squeaky step. The paint on the door was chipped, and dead leaves littered the porch. Though the cleansing smell of fresh rain lingered in the air, the cool breeze made Kita shiver. She peered over her shoulder as if sensing a presence behind her but saw only the overgrown bushes and full, leafy trees hiding the distant dirt road and spreading long shadows as the sun dozed off. Kita frowned.

Kan shook his head at his sister and bounded up the last steps, flinging the door open. Darkness and a musty moan greeted them. They all held their breath. Kita knew the piece was there. It had to be.


I hope you enjoyed this mini lesson on Setting a Scene. Do you have any tips to share?

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Now, here's my SHOUT OUT of the WEEK!



I was very excited to meet the lovely Sherry Ellis in person - she used to live near me, then she moved. But now she lives near my parents so I still get to see her. She's very supportive and active on the blog scene even though her home life is nuts--in a good way.

This observant Mama spins a wicked funny yarn as the author of precocious MG and picture books, as well as on her blog the Mama Diaries. She's got so many stories to share! Her latest picture book was released earlier this year: DON'T FEED THE ELEPHANT. And her first Middle Grade book comes out Sept 4th: BUBBA AND SQUIRT'S BIG DIG TO CHINA. Pre-Order here. Then she's off to do some school visits, bringing creative teacher resources they can use. She's been a busy Mama!

Keep Writing! and Have a great week!

7 comments:

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'm looking forward to meeting Sherry this September. She is a busy author and planning promotions like nobody's business.

Sherry Ellis said...

Thanks for the shout-out! I really appreciate it. Looking forward to seeing you again, soon!

Good writing tips, too!

Shady Del Knight said...

Hi, Tara!

Thanks for shining the spotlight on my good friend Sherry Ellis, the most amazing juggler I have ever known. I call her that because she juggles careers as an author and a musician along with the roles of wife and mom - all of the above in addition to being a very entertaining blogger. How she does it all, and does it all so well, is beyond me!

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

That was awesome! Thanks.

Patricia Lynne said...

Excellent tutorial. =)

Michelle Wallace said...

Thanks for the mini lesson. I love the way it unfolded!
I'd love to meet Sherry... she's a musical kindred spirit.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Some great advice! I always feel I can make that first page better. Congrats to Sherry.