As part of the WOW blog tour for Linda Rosen’s book “The The Disharmony of Silence”, Linda has agreed to share with us how to write about a made-up setting.
How to Write About a Made-Up Setting
In fictional settings, the reader’s mind will be a blank canvas. They have never been to the place you are writing about. Therefore, the writer must use specific vivid details to create the setting.
She needs to transport the reader into the story. To accomplish that, I like to use the image of a camera, one with a zoom lens. Bring it in close, describe what you see through the lens.
Using the five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing will help create a distinct setting.
In my writing, I start with the sense of sight. What do I want my readers to see? What images will captivate the time and place?
In the first chapter of my novel, The Disharmony of Silence, I have two of my characters, Ida and her eleven-year-old daughter Lena, setting the dining room table for the Passover seder. It is 1915. The mahogany dining room set, the breakfront with leaded
glass, and a cut crystal bowl as the centerpiece all evoke the period, as does the lace tablecloth that Lena tugs in frustration when she learns the Roths aren’t joining them, as they have every year since coming to America. A Formica table, vinyl cloth and Lucite bowl would not do the same.
Continuing with the sense of hearing, and also using my novel’s first chapter, I wrote about the elevated train on the corner and how it rattled the open window.” The use of the words “click clack” in chapter one makes the reader actually hear the train. It being elevated, not running on modern tracks, continues to invoke the time period.
It is also fun, and very rewarding, to play with smell and taste. In my novel there are several chapters which will, hopefully, have you tasting the food being cooked. For example, in chapter one, Ida is preparing a pot roast. “The scent of beef with carrots and potatoes simmering on the stove, suffused with savory herbs, perfumed the air.” Lena’s “taste buds tingled as she schemed up ways…” Can you smell it? Don’t you want to take a bite of that succulent beef? Yet, smell might not always be wonderful. Imagine writing about stepping in dog poop or having to visit a port-a-potty at a tennis match. Nothing lovely comes to my mind! For those odors (notice I used odor rather than scent or aroma) I would use words like stench or stink.
Distinctive words also help create setting.
For the last sense, touch, imagine using words such as feathery, cushiony, downy instead of soft. They are more evocative, as are dense, firm, rigid and solid rather than hard. There are many words to elicit this sense.
Whether the made-up setting is a town, country, bedroom, dining room, etc, the description must set the reader’s feet solidly in place. Using the five senses will do that though the choice of words to bring those senses to the fore is even more important.
One of my favorite books, always on my desk in easy reach, is the thesaurus. I never used Roget in school, all those years ago. If I had, maybe my compositions would have gotten an A instead of a B+.
Thank you Linda for these wise words on creating a setting. Your advice will certainly improve our writing.
Be sure to check out other stops on the WOW blog tour for Linda’s amazing tour. Check here for my review of her historical book.