Friday, July 23, 2010

Making Your Settings Come Alive

To make your settings believable, try visualizing the location where the scene takes place. Best yet, use a photo of or a visit to a real place.

In Where Love Once Lived, I could see in my mind the places where each scene took place. Some settings were imaginary and some were real, but they were all clear to me as I moved the characters about in the scene.

There is one scene in the book where the male and female protagonists meet on the campus of the University of Texas. I'd been there often enough to easily describe the scene, but before I began writing, I went there again.

I walked along the same sidewalks described in the book and sat on the bench where my fictional characters sat. I went to the Student Union and found out Brian and Karen's favorite place to eat had been replaced by a cluster of fast food stands you find in malls and airports today. I went on a Friday and listened to the Carillon play.

I took photos and posted them on my website, not only for future readers of the book, but for me to look at as I edited.

The photo shown here is of the bench where Brian and Karen had a picnic lunch while talking about their future. To see the other photos, go to and click on the setting locations to see the photos. There are also photos taken at the State Capitol, the Cabin, Mount Bonnell, and a church in South Houston that was in my mind as I wrote about the one set in Redondo Beach, California.

Let me know what you think about setting descriptions. Have you read books that made you feel you were there with the fictional characters? What if the author is describing a place you know quite well and you find errors. Does that bug you the way it does me?

In an early version of Where Love Once Lived, I described Manor as being west of Austin instead of east. None of my writing classmates noticed. But as soon as my Austin friends read it, they all pounced on me.

1 comment:

  1. E-Mail from Peg:

    I recently finished a book (old from Second Hand Prose) set in Key West. Never have been there, but I thought the author had a terrific sense of place. It was John Leslie - Killing Me Softly. Otherwise reminded me of a Raymond Chandler or a Ross MacDonald novel.
    Don't you love it when the character heads south on a certain street and you know it is one-way heading north? Somehow destroys the author's credibility.... Peg