I’m working on a science fiction novel and was looking forward to mining their books for setting details. I hadn’t counted on all of the information on how to most effectively use story settings.
Both of the new guides discuss how well-crafted settings are more than backdrops. They help pull readers in with conflict, resurrect past failures, and are populated by characters who can contribute even more conflict to the story. The books show how setting details can illustrate character traits and convey mood.
All of this and more can be communicated through the setting but settings can also be a pitfall. The guides discuss common problems such as rambling descriptions that go on and on as well as difficulty in communicating the passage of time.
Only once they have communicated the importance of setting and how to pull it off do the authors get into the specifics. Both the rural and urban books have the introductory section to prompt you on how to best use your settings. The two volumes differ in which settings they detail. The urban book features a variety of city-specific settings and modes of transportation ranging from art galleries and pawn shops to trains and taxis. The rural book offers information on quarries and mines as well as school settings and hunting cabins.
I decided to work with The Rural Setting Thesaurus so that I could focus on improving the scenes in my book where the characters’ journey through a forest. I found several pages of visual details ranging from the trees themselves to wildflowers and undergrowth. After the visual details, I read through a vast catalogue of sounds that included wind and trees, water and birds. Textures and sensations ranged from bark to burrs. These were the sections that I expected to find in each thesaurus.
There were also sections and types of details that I had not anticipated. One list included types of conflict that my characters might encounter in the forest. Possibilities ranged from getting lost in unfamiliar territory to encountering a predator. Another list detailed the types of people who might be found in the forest and who might pose a problem for my young characters. Not sure what other settings might be close by? There’s a list for that as well. The section wraps up with a sample “forest” description.
As is always the case with the guides produced by Angela and Becca, the list of details available for use in your stories is vast. This was helpful even when their vision of the setting didn’t match my own. The section on mines focuses on underground mines vs the pit mines of southern Missouri but their list of details did make me think – I can use this but not this and here is how my reality is different.
I can tell already that these books will encourage me to make the most of my settings. Want the opportunity to use these resources yourself? Angela and Becca have made an ebook copy of each setting book available for a drawing. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter.
In the meantime, I have to beef up the descriptions of an abandoned orchard. Excuse me while I go make the most of my settings…
Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on August 1, 2016.
***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****
Fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win ebook copies of The Rural Setting Thesaurus and The Urban Setting Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi! The giveaway ends at 11:59pm next Sunday, June 26th. We will choose one lucky winner on Monday, announce it in the Rafflecopter form, and follow up with the winner via email. Good luck!
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