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, unsplash.com, 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.

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

Four Secrets to Poetic Prose-Part 1

 

Poetic License-alvaradofrazier.com
Poetic License-alvaradofrazier.com

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.