When you’re writing fiction, you’re making up stories — telling lies in order to engage your readers. In essence, you’re using tricks, inspiring readers to experience your story.
Tricks make your fiction feel real to readers.
A major trick involves binding your characters into your novel’s setting. “Real” characters are bound into their setting as tightly as threads are woven into carpets.
Fiction writing: draw readers into the story’s world
I’ve been thinking about setting a lot lately, because characters not only develop from their setting, they also reflect it. When I’m working with an author, and suggest that he builds up his novel’s setting, it not only improves his current novel, but the next novel too.
He’s learned a useful trick. You can use the same trick to draw your readers into your novel’s world.
Start by making the setting of your novel (or short fiction) real to yourself. When you can see and feel your novel’s setting, and know how your characters react to their setting, your readers will feel that your story world is real too.
See clearly, and the reader sees what you see
Bestselling authors are brilliant at this.
From The Dry, by Jane Harper:
He stared at the area around the warren. Nothing moved for a long while, then there was a twitch on the landscape… She centred the gun, tracking the rabbit with a smooth arc. There was a muffled boom, and a flock of galahs rose in unison from a nearby tree.
Your settings make your characters who they are
Your novel’s setting makes your characters who they are, and affects their perception.
Did your main character grow up in the city in which your story takes place? What does that mean for your story?
Think about your character’s occupation. How does that affect what he perceives, and how he reacts?
From Crimson Lake, by Candice Fox:
‘The cigar box,’ she continued. ‘Very pretty box. Handmade. They’re a bit of an art form, popular in the seventies, coming back now with the hipster vintage thing. Pipes, too. If you don’t smoke cigars, you probably wouldn’t have much interest in them. The boxes.’
From Deep Freeze, by John Sandford:
“I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about God,” Virgil said. “I’m a Lutheran minister’s kid, and, believe me, there’s a difference between a religion and God. I sorta cut out the middleman.”
Observation counts: try sketching locations
Observation takes effort, and it’s amazing what you see when you pay attention to your own settings, as you go about your daily life.
You’re always somewhere, in a specific location. Your characters are always somewhere too.
Some authors create maps of their story’s settings. Others storyboard their scenes. Storyboarding helps you to visualize locations and scenes.
You don’t need to be a brilliant sketch artist to storyboard. I’m certainly not, but I took storyboarding seriously when I discovered how useful it is in mapping out scenes.
When you’re writing a scene involving two or more characters, it’s easy to lose track of where each character is, and what he’s doing.
A small storyboard on a sketchpad, or on a whiteboard, helps. Your storyboard becomes even more useful for complex scenes with many characters. Use stick figures for speed. You can even place an X where each character is in a scene.
Map a scene in your current novel: make it real
When you’re writing fiction you’ve got so many things to think about, you can lose track of your settings. Then you lose track of your characters, because they’re not reacting to their setting.
Try making a small sketch of a scene you’re currently writing. You’ll help your readers to experience your story, via what your characters experience.
Have fun. 🙂
All authors do; no one sets out to write a boring novel.
Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.More info →
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels.More info →