Creative Writing, Writers, Writing, writing tips

How To Unleash the Power of Setting In Your Writing

I’m all about trying to improve my writing skills. The stacks of books, both virtual and physical, take up more than one shelf of my bookcase and four bookshelves in Kindle Fire. So, it is with great expectation that the new Urban and Rural Settings Thesaurus (I wonder if it’s ‘thesauri’) are now available.

As we storytellers sit before the keyboard to craft our magic, we’re usually laser-focused on the two titans of fiction: plot and character. Yet, there’s a third element that impacts almost every aspect of the tale, one we really need to home in on as well: the setting.

How would you describe this place to someone who’s never been here?

village in Italy, photo by Lou Levit,
Italy, photo by Lou Levit,, cc

The setting is so much more than a painted backdrop, more than a stage for our characters to tromp across during the scene. Used to its full advantage, the setting can characterize the story’s cast, supply mood, steer the plot, provide challenges and conflict, trigger emotions, help us deliver those necessary snippets of backstory…and that’s just scratching the surface. So the question is this: how do we unleash the full power of the setting within our stories?

Well, there’s some good news on that front. Two new books have released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds a character might experience within 225 different contemporary settings. And this is only the start of what these books offer writers.

In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Rural Setting Thesaurus: Ancient Ruins.

And there’s one more thing you might want to know more about….

Rock_The_Vault_WHW1Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT. At the heart of the Writers Helping Writers site is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.

A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking…if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.

Ready to do your part? Stop by Writers Helping Writers to find out more!
Don’t miss out on some fantastic prizes.

Art, Creative Writing, Creativity, Inspiration, Writers

34 Unique Ways to Brainstorm and Get Creative

beer in ice, Corona beer, lime slices


What does a beer, a shower and playing Pictionary have in common?

And you can do all three alone or in a group? Well two of them at least and a third as a couple.

Okay, enough riddles.

The three subjects above are suggestions to help you generate creative ideas.


See if you agree.


creativity, brainstorming, writing
Brainstorming Creative Ideas – via post


What I like to do is read poetry and jot down whatever words or ideas arise. That’s suggestion #34.

Can you add any tips? How do you brainstorm creative ideas?

Maybe we can get to 40 ideas.

Authors, Creative Writing, Creativity, poetry, Writing, Writing classes

Four Secrets to Poetic Prose-Part 1



Part of my life between the sheets, of paper, is writing novels.

Since I don’t have a MFA in Creative Writing, I often seek out free or low cost classes for improving my writing skill.

Some of the best and inexpensive classes can be found through writers associations like Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), your city or county writer’s association, or local colleges.

This past weekend I spent a Saturday afternoon in a class, offered by SCBWI,  titled

Poetic LicensePoetry secrets that will make your prose prance, taught by Sonya Sones.

Author of several award winning Children’s and Young Adult books, Ms. Sones, shared her knowledge and secrets to make ‘prose prance.’

This is just a small taste of what Ms. Sones taught. I encourage you to go to her website and take a look around. She has some interesting information for her readers.

For this post, I’ll share some of the information and discuss two of her four secrets to poetic prose. On Friday, I’ll write about the others.

First, Ms. Sones asked us:

What tools would be in a poets tool kit?

We came up with 16 tools but I’ll list 10 for the sake of space:

  1. Rhyming dictionary
  2. Thesaurus
  3. Metaphors
  4. Verbs 
  5. Rhyme: internal and internal
  6. Rhythm (meter)
  7. Alliteration 
  8. Similes
  9. Personification
  10. Repetition

After talking about each one of these tools, Ms. Sones began with her ‘secrets’.

Secret One:

  • All of the tools for poets are also valuable for a writer. This helps the author to show not tell.

Think about it. Who wants to read the same word repeatedly or see a word but not feel the word?

Grab a thesaurus, use interesting words. Use a metaphor, or a simile (comparing two things, using ‘like’ or ‘as’). Paint a picture of the feeling with images.

An example: happy

Not: “I feel happy”-

Yes: “ I feel all lit up like a jar filled with fireflies.” 

Just typing that last sentence made me smile and think of a large mason jar glowing in the night under a backyard tent.

Next, Ms. Sones gave us a prompt. She set an Oreo cookie on our table and gave us three minutes to write a description using simile.

oreo 1

I have to tell you that Oreo’s are my least favorite cookie and the one I had was not perfect, like the one above. My Oreo had white spillage over its bottom cookie. Very sloppy.

When our time was up, Ms. Sones asked us to read our example of use of simile-then we could eat our cookie.  I wrote honestly about the Oreo, not knowing that we’d have to read our sentence aloud,

“My Oreo, chocolatey goodness, ruined by an icky, sticky glob of glue like seagull poop ruining a sculpture.”

That ruined the enjoyment of those who were now biting into their cookie.

Secret Two:

Personification in a narrative can give the reader an image and feeling. For example,  “the wind whistled through its teeth.”

TC Boyle: “…the tie threatened to throttle him.”

Can you picture these two examples? So much better than saying, “It was windy,” or “He wore a tight tie.”

For this section we had to find something in the room and write about it for three minutes using personification.

Used teabag-gettyimages
Used teabag-gettyimages

I found my item at my own table:

The teabag, drained of its energy, slouched in a dark pool of tears. It knew its destiny, and the trashcan, was near.  

People felt sorry for my teabag. I hesitated tossing it into the trashcan after class.


On Friday, I’ll return with more from Sonya Sones and her other secrets to make your prose prance.









Creative Writing, We Wanted to be Writers book, writing tips

What Do Writer’s Want to Know?

Several months have transpired since I’ve posted anything about creative writing or the topic of writing.

It’s probably because I’ve been concentrating on revision after revision on my own manuscripts, or maybe I’m subconsciously trying to avoid oversaturating my brain.  

Here’s the big But,

But sometimes there is some darn good (great) advice out there in the blog world about writing that I feel I must share, for to not share seems miserly, covetous. 

One such website is We Wanted To Be Writers, a blog by two Iowa MFA graduates and teachers  who often feature other writer’s who also received their MFA’s at the famed Iowa Writer’s Workshop in the mid-70’s. They include John Irving, Jane Smiley, T.C. Boyle, Allan Gurganus, Sandra Cisneros, Jayne Anne Phillips, Joe Haldeman, Jennie Fields, and many others. 

These bloggers put together a book, We Wanted to be Writers, which is a series of fascinating, funny, not so nice conversations among nearly 30 writers-students and their teachers-who were at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. It’s a bargain for $1.99 on Kindle. (This is just a personal recommendation, I don’t receive any compensation).

Recently I’ve enjoyed reading their six part series on “What Do Writer’s Really Want to Know?” Here are some gems I selected for your reading pleasure, but read the entire post. There is so much useable, funny, creative, and inspiring information on their blog:

  1. What We Wish We’d Known. “…the economics of publishing and why it is the typical novel has a shelf life somewhat briefer than that of live-culture yogurt.”
  2. The Stars and The Moon. “…When I was a student at the Workshop, a star system ruled. I treasure memories of hearing John Cheever, John Updike, and Kurt Vonnegut read from their works… I would’ve recommended adding a moon system…(it) could never supplant the star system, and shouldn’t. The Workshop is a place for big dreams. It’s where bright literary lights share drinks and conversation with aspirants … the Workshop moon system would enable students to meet and network with alumni…Luminaries here might not be nearly so bright as the stars. But they’ve survived, and have something useful to share.”
  3. Shelter In Place. “… two or perhaps three years one spends in a writers’ workshop are or should be a refuge from the ‘real world.’ The ‘real world’ and thinking too much about it are just a distraction from what’s important, which is of course one’s ‘art.’ Get the art right, and the real world will come knocking on your door.”
  4. The Four Things You Need to Know Now. “I thought a writer needed validation in the real world: calluses, salty talk, hardhat with your name on it. Standing up to my neck in a pool of bubbling crude… I began to re-think that proposition.”
  5. On Shark Agents, Writer Candy and Momentum. “I wish I’d known that it doesn’t matter when you publish your first book, it’s that you manage somehow to do it.There is no biological clock associated with giving birth to your first novel…”
  6. Slouching Toward Tomorrow Land. “…Do I dare disturb the universe?
    That’s it. That’s the question I face every time I sit down to write. That’s what I wish I’d known.”
    And with that last quote go out and dare to disturb the universe with your writing, art, poetry, photography, baking, crafting or whatever it is that stirs your creativity this weekend.