Scintillating Settings: Tip #3 for improving fictional spaces


I’m at the part of the program with my creative writing students in which I’ve been really pushing them to improve their descriptions. You can check out Tip #1 and Tip #2 in other posts, and here is Tip #3 . . .

Tip 3: Show the setting from a character’s perspective

Like the other tips, I suppose this one might seem kind of obvious. But it’s not always the case with my younger writers, so I like to remind them of this tried and proven technique.

What I tell my students is this: Essentially, our characters are the cameras through which the readers experience our worlds, so describe a new setting through their eyes. Too many times we can default to technical descriptions of settings. While these descriptions might be accurate, they don’t do much for adding emotion to a scene. By describing a setting through a character’s feelings, thoughts, and reactions, we can draw on that excellent notion of showing instead of telling a story

Below are some examples from the book I am just putting the final touches on, Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen. In this scene, my main character, Kendra, and her companions have been sailing through the skies in their airship and have at long last discovered the mystical place known as The City on the Storm.


This version was okay. But just okay. I decided I wanted to slow down the pace of the scene (this is an important end to a journey) and wanted it to have a bit more “wonder.” I decided the best way to do this was having more of a connection to Kendra’s thoughts and emotions.


I think the final (or what is close to final) version turned out much better!

By the way, here’s another map I found in one of my student’s brainstorming journal . . . they don’t always show them to me, but I can ferret them out when I snoop. And they are wonderful!



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