Thursday, July 8, 2010

Setting: Using Real Life

Something that helps me to create a strong sense of place in my novels is to use details from places I've been. That way, I can imagine the setting in my head as my characters interact with it -- how the hallway looks, what the restaurant smells like, where the best climbing trees are in the playground.

The downside of doing this is that sometimes, I don't include enough detail. I'm seeing it through my eyes, not a stranger's eyes. I may leave out a key detail because I've seen it so many times before. It almost makes me think I should choose an unfamiliar setting I could visit. Then I'd actually take the time to absorb all the sensory details I need to really bring it alive. Do you use real-life settings in your novels? How do you avoid the problem of being too familiar with them?

If you don't know it, a great resource for getting the right descriptive details is the Setting Thesaurus over at The Bookshelf Muse.


  1. I have used settings I know because it does make it real for me, but you're right about making sure I also see the setting through the reader's eyes as well.

  2. Maybe using only parts of a real setting would help, like making a hybrid of a real and made up place. Some of the details would be new, to keep it fresh.

  3. I use settings that I know. I make sure to add the overall feel of streets, houses, and such. Anytime I switch to a new area of the setting, I describe it.

  4. Medeia, using settings you are familiar with does help a lot in getting those details right.


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