A Setting That Sells

DSCN6818I love to read vibrant settings in stories, don’t you? They are those settings that make you feel like you’re right there, in the story, at the very spot where the story takes place. Recently I read Amber Stockton’s latest book, The Grand Design, and I appreciate her skill at showing the reader the setting in such a beautiful way.

Amber weaves the setting into her action and dialogue like a skilled artist. Using the five senses, you can see the flowers and almost smell their delicate aroma. You can feel the white painted wood on the massive porch of The Grand Hotel. You nearly touch the fabric on the character’s body. Snapshot by snapshot, she hones in on details that pull you deeper and deeper into the story. Well done, Amber!

Here are a few things I’ve learned about developing a setting that sells:

  1. Use all five senses in your scene development. Don’t settle for simply what you see. How does it smell? What does an object feel like? What do you hear in the distance? What does the meal taste like?
  2. Use at least one object in every scene that will put you in that time and place. This brings authenticity and realism to your story. Whether it’s a rolling pin used for making cookies or a pitchfork leaning against the barn, details like this will bring readers into the story.
  3. Use unique nouns and verbs that will make the scene crystal clear for the reader. Zero in on a close up shot of a scene and make it poignant.
  4. Set obstacles in the character’s path. What does the character need to overcome? An inward insecurity? An outward flaw? An actual obstacle such as the lack of money to travel or health challenges? What is the biggest challenge in your character’s life? Set those obstacles so clearly into the scene that readers have to find out how they solve their conundrum.
  5. Make the setting relatable, even if it’s in a different time and place. Everyone has to eat, whether they lived in the fifth century or today; let readers taste the hard bread and simple fare of that day. All of us live somewhere; describe it well. There are sounds of nature in every era; let the reader hear the sound of keening at an 19th-century Irish funeral. Everyone lives in a cultural setting that is unique in its own special way; let readers experience the quirks and lingo of the time and place.

Every reader longs for more. More that will awaken their senses, touch their soul, stir their emotions, and change their heart. They want to be transported into another time and place and learn from the lives of others, even if they are fictional characters who live across the street from them.

Many of us will never go to Ireland or cross the great Atlantic Ocean or live on an island. Most of us haven’t grown up in a family of eleven children in a one-bedroom Irish cottage. I want to let the readers experience those things as I develop my setting scene-by-scene. That’s what will make a setting that sells.

How do you develop your settings? I’d love to know!




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