Where Does It Lead?

As I looked under the pier in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, toward the sea, I had the overwhelming feeling that I was staring into a magic portal. If I could make it past the clashing waves to the end, I would be transported to … where? Where does it lead? To the past? To the future? To a planet on the edge of the galaxy? Or to a world of our innermost fears?

Please share in the comments. Where does it lead?

For more setting prompts, click here.

What Are Your Comfort Settings?

And I don’t mean the climate control in your car or home. Everyone, even characters, need a comfortable setting to retreat to or recover in. So what are your comfortable settings? If you’re a writer, what settings do your prefer to create to give your characters comfort? Readers, what are the comfortable settings that stick in your memory.

I think part of the appeal of the Sherlock Holmes stories is his apartment on Baker Street. No matter how harrowing the mystery, Holmes and Watson can return to Baker Street with its inviting hearth, cozy chairs, and eccentric decorations, like the Persian slipper that holds Holmes’s tobacco. Although all the tobacco smoke would force me to leave the apartment if I wasn’t stopping by for a literary visit.

For my YA mystery, I needed a comfortable setting for main character, Rae. She’s just discovered her father and his family, so I made the farmhouse where her dad lives with her three half-brothers and her grandmother Rae’s comfort place. I modeled sections of the house on my maternal grandparents’ home, which was my comfort setting in reality.

Your turn. What are your comfort settings?

The Urban Setting Thesaurus

Nothing beats visiting a setting in person. But if that’s not possible, grab a copy of The Urban Setting Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to City Spaces by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

This reference book lists over 100 different settings found in an urban environment. For each setting, the authors list ways to evoke all five senses, possible sources of conflict, usual inhabitants, other related settings, notes and tips, and an example of how to work the setting into a story.

I wished I could have consulted this book last winter when I realized I had to write a brief scene in a pawn shop. The only time I’d visited one was in middle school. I don’t remember why, but my dad and I entered that pawn shop in Wheeling, West Virginia. My only memories are pretty vague, except for the piece of scrimshaw I found. I needed The Urban Setting Thesaurus to get the details right, even for a short scene.

The first thirty pages consist of articles offering advice on how to get maximum effect from your settings, such as “The Setting as a Vehicle for Delivering Backstory” and “Common Setting Snags”. One article I found very informative was “Urban World Building: The Pros and Cons of Choosing a Real-Life Location.”

Even better are the appendices in the back, which include the emotional value tool and setting checklist. If you have a scene that isn’t working or won’t behave, analyze it through this checklist. The authors have provided a pdf for the setting checklist here.

What if you’re writing a story with a rural setting? Never fear. Ms. Ackerman and Ms. Puglisi have thoughtfully published The Rural Setting Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Places.

For my review of another writing book on settings, click here. I’ve also reviewed another book by Ms. Ackerman and Ms. Puglisi, The Emotion Thesaurus.

What book you’ve read has an amazing urban setting?

Prompts for Short Stories

This month’s theme is short stories. I loved reading them and writing them! My prompts for short stories provide inspiration by asking who, what, when, where, how, and why questions.

Today’s prompt is a setting. Answering the questions below gives me the beginning of a story.

What?–A well-kept room in an old family mansion

Where?–A small midwestern town.

When?–A dusty, hot August afternoon.

Who?— An elderly woman, who lives alone in the house, and a young woman, who cleans her house.

Why?–The young woman knows a mystery surrounds the elderly woman’s family and has found something in the attic that might be connected to it.

How?–The young woman shows the elderly woman the object and tells her what she thinks it has to do with the mystery.

For another setting prompt, click here. How does the photo inspire you to answer the questions?

Prompts for NaNoWriMo

We’re over half way through November. How is your NaNoWriMo going? Having any trouble with settings? As I write my YA mystery, I seem to have a lot of scenes of people discussing the case while eating. I need to change some of those scenes to give my writing more variety.

If you notice that you are using the same kind of setting over and over, see if these photos can act as prompts for your NaNoWriMo challenge.

I know I said my characters are eating too much, but in case your characters aren’t eating enough, here’s a kitchen to inspire you and allow your characters to get some nourishment.

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