As we storytellers sit before the keyboard to craft our magic, we’re usually laser-focused on the two titans of fiction: plot and character. Yet, a third (and often ignored) element impacts almost every aspect of the tale: the setting.
The setting is so much more than a stage for our characters to tromp across during the scene. Used to its full potential, the setting can characterize the story’s cast, supply mood, steer the plot, provide challenges and conflicts, trigger emotions, and help deliver necessary snippets of backstory. So the question is: how do we unleash the full power of the setting within our stories?
Well, there’s some good news on that front. Two new books released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds a character might experience within 225 contemporary settings.
Swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Rural Setting Thesaurus: Ancient Ruins.
Generally, I find books on the craft of writing dull and filled with the same concepts. A few years back, The Emotion Thesaurus changed my perspective. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s thesaurus books are so invaluable, they reside both on my desk and on my Kindle. Whenever a new one comes out, I buy it blindly.
To a creative person, it might seem the contents of these books are unnecessary. Thinking in multiple dimensions is supposed to be second nature to writers. If my setting includes a wine cellar, I should only need to channel one and write what I see. Shoot, I even have one in my home, so why would I need The Rural Setting Thesaurus to tell me about them?
When I put this book to the test, I envisioned various wine cellars, ranging from the one in my modest home to the massive, professional ones in the Napa Valley. While most of the sights listed seemed obvious, as did the scents and tastes, many items had not crossed my mind, such as the possible sources of conflict you could find there and whom else you might see in one (which leads me to question who I should not see, and the conflict that could arise). Then I read a list of sensations, and the mention of struggling with a frail cork sent my mind reeling again. Before I knew it, a who-done-it plot was brewing in my mind. Yep, just like all the other Thesaurus books, simply flipping through the pages jumpstarted a new story.
The ebook formatting is also quite wonderful. Each section is hyperlinked to others that might be relevant (that wine cellar section links to a basement, kitchen, a mansion, and a winery) and most importantly, back to the Table of Contents. With this book, it is easy to pop around and let the story create itself.
I tried to uncover what this book lacks, but none of my resulting ideas were based on structure or content. Instead, I simply thought of more sensations and plot devices because my mind was now locked into a setting. Thus, these books do exactly what they are designed for—get your mind going in original directions.
Need some help getting those creative juices flowing? Just grab any one of Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s books and a pen. Your words are about to fly.
And there’s one more thing you might want to know more about….
Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT. At the heart of the Writers Helping Writers site is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.
A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking…if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.
Ready to do your part? Stop by Writers Helping Writers to find out more!