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by Sandy Tritt
the time and the place where a story exists. This seems simple enough.
But the selection of setting interweaves with both the character and the
plot. For example, Kerry lives in the rural south, far from the site of
his dreams. This is what complicates his plot. Mike’s story can take on
different facades, depending on whether he lives in the District of
Columbia, New York City, or Small Town, Idaho. And poor Harmond is
stranded on a mountaintop, far from any civilization, perhaps surrounded
by frightening snakes and spiders. The setting must add dimension to—and
interact with—both the plot and to the character.
We present setting through description. We must be able to visualize
where we are. We should be able to smell it, hear it, feel it. If at all
possible, visit the area you are describing in your story. If you are
writing a scene that occurs in a forest, take a field trip to the
nearest woods and hike into it a ways until you can hear the birds,
smell the pine, feel the dampness. If you can’t physically go there,
close your eyes and imagine yourself there. Then, think beyond your
first impressions and try to identify sounds, smells, sights, feelings,
even tastes, that you didn’t notice at first. These will give your
description that fresh, unique feel. And always try to include as many
of the five senses as you can in your descriptions.
If you are unable to visit the location of your setting, research it.
Find photographs, watch videos, talk to someone who was there. Try again
to get beyond the everyday description and discover something unique
about the setting that can add zing to your prose.
The second part of setting is time. What year, what time of year, what
day, what time of day, does the scene occur in? We can show each of
these—and the passage of time—in creative ways. If you are writing a
novel that occurs in the present day, keep your eyes and ears open for
sights and phrases that may someday date your work. If you are writing a
novel that occurs in the past, do your homework. Research the time
period very carefully. Check out the styles of clothing, the manner of
speaking, the popular music, the way of life. I especially like to add
music to my writing, as this gives the setting a special flavor and
incorporates the sense of hearing. I keep a copy of The Billboard Book
of Number One Hits on my desk, which lists (and gives details about)
every song that made it to Number One on the Billboard Weekly List. That
way, if I’m writing about being in a nightclub in 1956, I can expect to
hear Elvis sing “Heartbreak Hotel.” If I’m at the same place in 1965, I
can expect to hear the Beatles sing “Eight Days a Week.” In 1975, I’ll
hear the Eagles. In 1987, Bon Jovi. In 1995, Mariah Carey. And so on. By
referring to particular songs by particular artists, the time period
becomes more vivid.
Likewise, if you can accurately and completely describe the style of
dress of your characters, the food they eat, the things they drink (who
would have ever heard of bottled water in the 1800’s?) and so forth, you
bring integrity to your work. An added bonus of research is that often
you will discover something that adds a dimension to your
writing—something you hadn’t thought of.
It is also wise to check out any events that occurred during the time
period of your novel. Perhaps you don’t remember exactly what years the
Great Depression occurred, but if your character is living during those
years, it must become a fabric of your work. Wars, natural disasters,
assassinations, discoveries, diseases—all of these add realism to your
setting and make the reader feel the full impact of the time.
Until I am finished with a novel, I put the date of the scene right in
my manuscript, so I’ll know what day of the week I’m in, what happened
on that day, who was in the news and so forth. Later, when I’m finished,
I remove these. They are there just to keep me honest, to keep me true
to the history of the time period I am using. I also print out a yearly
calendar of the year, so I’ll know what day of week a certain date falls
on, when Easter is, when Elvis died, and so forth.
Setting can also help us show passing time. Surely, the trees in the
winter look differently than they do in the fall, summer or spring. And
by showing the leaves budding, blooming, changing color and falling off,
we can document the passing of the seasons. We can also use weather,
depending on where we are—snow, tornadoes and so forth—to add dimension
and show the season. And the morning sun looks differently than the
setting sun and the moon and stars change as well.
One final word on setting: like character description, it should be fed
to us in pieces. Not one long description, but a sentence here, a couple
of words there, sprinkled throughout our prose so the reader is
constantly aware of where and when they are, but are not overwhelmed by
(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved,
except for those listed here. May be reproduced for educational purposes
(such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in
conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt
for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.
The Writing Process:
When your editor has reviewed your writing.
There you are sitting at your computer, feeling exhausted and yet happy
as you type in the last word to your story. A broad smile appears on
your face with a look of complete satisfaction emerging in your eyes as
you sit back and look at the finished work. “All done,” you say. “I am
ready to submit.”
But after you have submitted your work for an evaluation, you soon find
out that your story; even though you considered it to be one of your
greatest accomplishments, comes back showing that it isn’t so perfect
after all. Don’t loose heart; this is a normal aspect of the writing
Just because you have written, “The End” doesn’t mean your story is
complete. All writers, old and new have room for improvements.
Revising improves your manuscript. It means going over your work from
another point of view, going in and digging through your story
structure, its development of characters and description and making
every detail clear and precise. Revising is going through the dialogue
to make sure the speech is logical and effective. Revising is adding or
deleting information that is or is not necessary to make your writing
effective, presenting a clear picture for your targeted audience.
Revising means editing for grammar as well, this comes after you have
revised your sentences and paragraphs, making them more complete and
structured. When you are editing for grammar, you should look for the
proper verb tense, subject verb agreement and the correct usage of
capitalization within your writing. Remember the proper use of when to
use a comma or a semicolon within a sentence or a paragraph, eliminating
the pesky adverbs that are referred to as “lazy words.”
A well written story is one that leaves your reading audience turning
the pages, without bringing confusion or misunderstanding of what you
are presenting. It’s a picture perfect description of scenes, plot and
dialogue that will capture the minds of your readers, leaving them with
a lasting impression even after they have put the book away.
If your editor has returned your manuscript for a revision and he or she
has recommended that you take into consideration the comments and
suggestions that they have advised you on, go ahead and listen; rewrite,
revise and tighten up your story, so that you can present a finished,
well written manuscript that is bound to catch that particular
Critiques by Sandy
Unlike most editors, I consider my role
to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I
explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how
to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat
business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other
Treat you with respect and compassion.
All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to
improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.
Mark your manuscript, correcting
grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where
Highlight areas that are especially
well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.
Where appropriate, offer suggestions for
plot development, character development or other areas that could be
Return a two-to-four page written
analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting,
characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks,
etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.
If appropriate, recommend reading or
resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.
Answer any questions you have via
Provide my telephone number for a
personal follow-up, if you desire.
For Sandy's success stories, see
Write Sandy at
(See Sandy's article
Book Fest Bliss
Copyright 2005 Tena Green
All Rights Reserved
fairs are spectacular events,
bringing readers and writers
together from as far as hundreds of
miles away. Coordinating the event
is just as spectacular, and more
than worth the effort.
When the Midwest Book Fest
was taken on in January of 2004 the end result was over 100 authors
attending, and the only advertising was word of mouth. The footwork was
incredible. All total, there were over 700 hours logged to make the MBF
happen, and as it turned out, 700 work hours equaled one unbelievable
state of bliss.
To coordinate a book fair be advised
it's best to be prepared. The first step is a committee, which you'll
want comprised with doers. Some good choices are librarians,
someone with computer knowledge, writers, and reporters. Once you have a
committee you'll need volunteers. Double the numbers you think are
needed. This allows time for your volunteers to visit the book fair as a
reader or writer.
You must decide if your book fair is
going to be non-juried, non-biased or neither, and in order to
accommodate traditionally published authors you'll need a bookstore on
board. Small independent bookstores are thrilled to attend, and
eliminates the headache of communicating with a large chain.
A review committee should be created
outside the main committee due to the time involved in reading
The necessity of having sponsors is
obvious. The best place to start looking is a newspaper or a publisher,
but don't hesitate to look further. There are many people who are
interested in promoting literacy.
Last and certainly not least are your
authors. Without authors there is no book fair. You must be willing to
take time with these people. Almost all authors work full time and
writing is a second income. Not because they want it that way, but
because there is little money in writing. Therefore they will overlook
things, forget things and procrastinate, all those annoying little
habits we are all guilty of. After all, they're people too, so be
patient and remember they are the key to your success.
The most important factor, is believing
in the importance of literacy. Without this conviction, coordinating a
book fair is nothing more than 700 hours of work, minus the bliss.
The 2005 Midwest Book Fest will take
place September 17th in Bellevue, OH, and is now taking Submissions . The
Midwest Book Fest, where readers and writers meet, because the
importance of reading and writing can never be overstated.
Click here for more information.
Created You: A Guide to Temperament Therapy
AuthorMe Paperback... (Released 2005)
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Publishing New Writers,
May, 2005 (no. 605)
Publisher: Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.
Fax (847) 428-8974.
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