Choosing a Setting: How do you choose?

Scotland2007 019I’ve been thinking a lot about setting and atmosphere recently. It definitely isn’t one of my strengths, and I want to change that – and what better opportunity than the latest rewrite? I’ve also found a few problems where the setting I chose just doesn’t work.

Which begs the question: how do you choose the right setting?

The question works on two levels. First there’s the general setting for your entire story, whether it’s Regency England, or maybe the darkside of Mars. Then there’s the more specific question of what settings to select for specific scenes. I’ve heard differing things about how many settings you should have for your whole book – some suggesting about a maximum of five. And while I understand that this helps ground the reader – and the writer, too – I do find this a bit limiting, especially in some books where necessity demands you move to different settings, like various crime scenes (unless all your victims are killed in the same place … wouldn’t that just make it easy to wait around until the killer comes back?).

Anyway … how do you choose? What makes the best setting?

Donald Maass in “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook,” suggests that each location can be “an opportunity to enrich your story” (176). The setting can alter and create a mood. I’ve seen this done lately (and really well) by Amanda Stevens in her Graveyard Queen series (which I confess to being totally addicted to – read them. They’re awesome.) She seemingly effortlessly creates this creepy and intriguing setting, especially in “The Kingdom” (book 2), where even the arrival of the protagonist, Amelia, hints at what’s to come. In that novel, the setting really is a character … but what character to choose?

The easy answer, of course, is “whatever I want,” but that’s a silly answer. Just because I want my second scene set on the moon with naked dancing alien-babies in the background doesn’t mean it will work … especially in my Regency romance. Thus, one must look to the overall setting to decide on the specific. The possibilities are not endless, but they seem to be. A tavern? The protagonist’s front parlor? A boxing club?

Time for your input. If you’re a writer, how do you choose your settings? What is it about a particular setting that makes it matter more? Do you limit how many you use? As a reader, do you have a preference for setting? Is there a point when there’s too many settings?

Thanks, as always, for reading, and hope you have a fabulous week. Oh, and if you like this post and don’t yet follow, why not? You wouldn’t want to miss a post would you? (Don’t worry I don’t bite … trying to set a good example for the kidlet.)

The Journey to Publication

Staying Positive and Persevering: Goal-setting for a New Year (Part 1)

Another year has come and gone, which happens faster and faster all the time it seems. As you reflect back on 2010, on what you’ve accomplished and what goals you want to set for 2011, it can be easy to get mired in what you haven’t done / seen / accomplished rather than on what you have.

I’m here to help avoid all that nonsense in a two-part blog on reflecting back on the past year, and getting ready for the new one.

All right. First off, where are those resolutions you set way back last January? Did you write them down? Here’s a basic in any kind of goal-setting: write your goals down. Sure, some folks suggest you need to share your goals with others, be open about it, perhaps post publically, etc, etc. I don’t go that far. I just figure it helps if you write them down (more reliable than your memory too – and far less selective).  That way, you have something you can actually look back on. So, look back at those old resolutions / goals. Gleefully check off any you have achieved – yay for you! Here’s the dangerous part: it can be really easy to see lots you haven’t achieved just yet. There are some which quite possibly still can’t be checked off, even if they’ve been there more than one year. Let those pass for the moment, and try not to let it eat you up – we’ll get back to them, I promise.

Okay, so you’ve checked off all that you’ve achieved, had a bit of a celebration if you’ve checked off plenty. Congrats! Now it’s time to test your memory – and your positive attitude. Now you need to consider: what have I accomplished this year which isn’t on the list? For example, did you set the goal to complete one entirely new manuscript this year, but you actually wrote two? Just because they weren’t on the original list doesn’t mean they’re not important. Look over those additional accomplishments and add them onto your list, giving yourself a few more “checkmarks” for achievement (and a bit more celebration – yay!).

I know. Staying positive at this point can be hard (just like thinking of what you’ve achieved when you can only see what you haven’t). There are still those special goals which remain unattained. Take heart. Have you made steps towards them? Was it possibly too big of a goal for just this year, or dependent on many more factors than you can control yourself? If this is still an important goal for you, can you think of what possibly held you back? And in just the same objective light, what has brought you forward from where you were last year? What steps towards achieving the larger goal have you achieved? How many new words have you written this year? Have you made contacts which will help you next year? Have you learned new marketing or writing strategies which could help you market your writing and your author brand? What do you know and have you done that brings you closer to your end or larger goals than you were last year?

Finally, pull back and consider the year and your goals objectively – as though you were someone else, either stranger or friend. Did you achieve every goal? Maybe not. But were there some great achievements? Have you made progress towards long-term goals? If it’s not good enough, why? Who says? How could things have been different? It’s very easy to say “I should have done this, this, and this” but at the time, were there other more pressing concerns? Are there legitimate reasons for why goals weren’t achieved? How will things be different next year? What different steps can you take? What goals could you set and achieve?

Enough reflection on the past year. It’s over, it’s done. Accept “it is as it is” without rancor or guilt, be proud of what you have accomplished, and move on. It’s a new year already – a new year full of possibility. Next week: setting goals for next year.