Writing about Settings

Setting is the time and place where your story is set. It can be as mundane as a typical suburban neighborhood or as exotic as a foreign country or alien planet. Remember, “exotic” to you might be the mundane to someone else, and vice versa, so you will have to rely on your skills of description to bring the setting alive.

Another term for setting is location, although that is more properly limited to the physical space in which the story is set. But setting involves much more – the time or era when the story is taking place (past, present, future); the passage of time, such as how long a period your story covers (a day, an hour, a character’s entire life); mood and emotion; physical location (for example, deserts, cities, planets, underwater algae farm, Victorian London); geography (the description of the physical location as related to nature – rivers, mountains, etc.); and weather and climate.

Additionally, your setting needs to be populated, otherwise there’s not much of a story. First, consider the people you’re writing about: are they human? It’s not a dumb question, because depending on your story you could be writing about protagonists who are fully human, paranormal creatures such as werecows, or aliens from another planet or dimension.

Use descriptions of the physical landscape (geography) and buildings to help establish your setting. It helps to look at photographs of locations when you’re trying to come up with descriptive text, but don’t forget to use sensory descriptions to make the place come alive in the mind of the reader. The beach may look wonderful, but what does it smell like? Is the breeze strong? Or hot, or cold? What kind of sounds does the protagonist hear at the beach? Does the sand crunch under his sandals, or get into his shoes and give him a blister?

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 140

It’s been some time since I posted a Thursday Writing Prompt. This year has been unfriendly to being productive, but it’s time to climb back into the driver’s seat and get some writing and editing done!

For today’s prompt, do an online search for cocktails and find one with a name that intrigues you. You’ll take that name and use it as a working title for a short story. “Tequilla Sunrise” would work as a prompt, and it already gives you an idea of the setting for your story. It might work well for a travel type of story, or perhaps a romance where a traveler meets that special someone.

“Dark and Stormy” is another name that is highly suggestive, but this time it makes me think of Gothic castles, haunted houses, or wild weather and large waves crashing against a rocky shoreline. Because who cares if it’s dark and stormy and you’re safe in bed in your urban apartment? Well, now … that would be a different setting, wouldn’t it? Write the unexpected!

And a search for weird cocktail names will give you even more inspiration. “Dances with Wenches,” “The Drunken Elf,” “Blue Lagoon,” “Twelve Mile Limit,” and “Green Ghost” are some fun names to start with, and there are more … adult-named beverages out there, too, if that’s your bag.

So, grab a cocktail recipe of your choice and be inspired — with or without the alcohol — that’s your choice. Just don’t blame me if you’re seeing twice as many words on your page as you’re actually writing!

Just Another Brick in the Face

Somehow, someone(s) has/have pretty much trashed my author page on Goodreads and I’m pissed about it. I put a lot of work into setting up that page, and for what? So someone else can mess it up in an instant? Great. Just great.

Why the hell do I even try to do anything? I spend time setting things up, trying to make my life a little better, just to see someone else come in and screw up everything. I either have to do a ton of work all over again, or just give up. Guess what I’m leaning toward right about now? I’m tired of getting dumped on and I’m tired of getting bricks in the face; I get enough of them at work to build a library.

So, having coauthored two anthologies and entries in several encyclopedias, I’ve been slowly but surely setting up my Goodreads author profile and book page. I logged in today because I need to start doing some serious marketing. And that’s when I found that three of the books I’d set up were gone, but a book about a baby was there by some other Karen Garvin. I do not write about children or babies, nor do I pretend to do so on TV.

I couldn’t find a way to remove that book from my author page, but I could edit the listing, so I changed its title to THIS IS NOT MY BOOK and sent a help email to Goodreads. I’m still faced with the fact that three of my books are gone and I’ll probably get saddled with having to redo them.

But this begs the question: Is it worth it to go through all that work of setting up my author page again if it’s so easy for someone else to take it all away? At least I can keep my Publications list up-to-date here on Focal Plane.

 

Bacteria Wars

This has been a rough spring. Not only do I have allergies that turned into a sinus infection earlier this month, but I then I developed a lingering cough that I thought was bronchitis, so today I went to the doctor and it turns out I have strep throat. Well, the bacteria might be making me sick, which is pretty unfortunate since I just joined a gym, but they are not stopping me from writing. I am wondering if I should spray my keyboard with disinfectant. Nah. It would probably short-circuit, and then I’d have to write by hand. And I can’t read my own handwriting after the first paragraph!

Additionally, one of my cockatiels was unwell and so I took both of them to the vet. Poor little things, they both had blood drawn, and while Peachfuzz powered through it like a champ, Zim screamed his head off during the entire exam and then he bit the vet — twice. Guess who’s a favorite at the animal hospital?

Progress on the second Corrugated Sky anthology is going well. We’re revising our first drafts and hope to publish the book early this summer. I’ve completed my last encyclopedia entry on Ray Bradbury, although I have a few things to tackle for the editor to clear up some rough patches and fill in a few gaps. I’ve submitted a chapter proposal for an academic book on the First World War, and with most big projects off my desk I can turn to editing my novel for one last time.

I’ve revisited my thought process about how many words/hour editing should count for and decided that the 1,000 words per hour is really not unrealistic. I was toughing it out at 750 words an hour, but I was kind of cheating myself given the amount of work I was putting into the editing process. I’m happy to say that I am now ahead in my weekly word-count goal by more than 5,000 words, and I intend to stay there.

Stay well, stay pollen-free and bacteria-less, and I’ll see you on the next page!