When I read a book, I want to be transported to wherever the characters are–pulled into the setting so deeply I can smell, taste, hear, see, and feel everything they do. So when I write, my goal is to give my readers that experience. I’m a stickler for details when it comes to setting and sometimes I have to use a few tricks to get in “the zone.” Though I always use fictional towns for my books, they are located in very real places, and today I’d like to share a few of my setting secrets with you.
Once I decide on a particular setting, I order a travel guide from that state. I immerse myself in it, become familiar with the landscape, the attractions, the history, and the culture. I keep it by my laptop as I write the story and refer to it often. These travel guides generally come with a map, which is also helpful. Plus, I get great vacation ideas!
If I’m really struggling to get in “the zone,” I’ll break out the iPod and play nature music from a similar type of setting. For example, if I’m writing a story set on the coast, I’ll listen to ocean waves and other kinds of moving water. If I’m writing a story set in the mountains, I’ll listen to birds chirping, bubbling brooks, and even bluegrass. This helps release any tension that may be causing writer’s block and allows me feel my setting.
I have a strong sense of smell and strangely my nose is sometimes linked to memories. So I often rely on scented candles to help me with my setting. If my book is set in the country during summer, I’ll burn a Fresh Linen or Wildflower scent. If the story takes place during Christmas, I’ll burn a Balsam and Cedar or Fresh Snow scent. You get the idea!
YouTube Videos or DVD’s
If I need to get a sense of dialect for that region of the country, I’ll watch YouTube videos or PBS and National Geographic DVD’s from my local library to help immerse myself in the setting. And if I’ve been to that area in person, I’ll pull out old home videos to get reacquainted with the area. Yes, I said videos, as in VHS tapes. 😉
As tough as this trick is, I’ve even resorted to cooking and eating food from that particular setting. For a story I wrote set in coastal Maine, we enjoyed fresh lobster and my new favorite snack, a Fluffernutter. Google it, it’s fantastic! For my current story set in South Dakota on a cattle farm, we’re enjoying lots of steak.
I’ll often Google the setting, then browse the nature and landscape images before I begin writing. This helps me to transport (in my mind) to my setting. Because if I don’t feel it, my readers won’t either.
Do you have writing tricks you rely on?
~ Candice Sue Patterson is the author of Silver White Winters and Bright Copper Kettles, both contemporary romances from Pelican Book Group. When she’s not tending to her chickens, splitting wood, or decorating cakes, she’s working on a new story. To learn more visit www.candicesuepatterson.com.