#RevPit 100k Setting Workshop!

We’re going to have a bit of fun and amp up our setting skills! Setting is more than just a backdrop. It should be interactive; affect the outcomes of plots and alter the emotions of your characters.

Here's how things will work:

I will send out a few tweets at 6pm announcing the game and the rules and some tips on setting the scene using all five senses.

We will be playing a game, ala $100k Pyramid. I will do a few rounds myself to get the flow going.

If you want to do a round, DM me at @OnlyCassandra (If you're not following me on Twitter already, please do so I can DM you!) and I will pick a few to do a round or two. That person will publicly post using the #RevPit hashtag and try to describe something using as many of the five senses as they can but without saying what it is they're describing. Could be a place, a thing, a feeling, who knows!

Everyone else will try to guess what that item is.

Then everyone can have a few minutes to give other ideas on how to describe that particular thing if you think you've got a good one!

So what are some tips for good settings?

Let’s start with the things we don’t want:

You’ll want to avoid huge chunks of text. I don’t know anyone who loves that bit in Lord of the Rings when there’s nearly an entire chapter describing a hill. Tolkien is a master, to be sure, but dang. Be sure to keep things brief. A well crafted sentence can do so much more to delight a reader than a whole chapter of description.

Along those lines, try not to give everything at once, right up front. Especially in opening chapters, I don’t need to know the history of the characters, the towns, the countries, where they bought the cup on the table, how much it cost, what the table looks like, the chairs, the fireplace behind it, etc. Drop those details in action or dialogue tags instead.

You’ll also want to avoid passive, telling words. Is the grass green? Duh. Unless it’s not. And when it’s not, that’s what makes things interesting. Why isn’t it green? Does your book feature a drought? Perhaps focusing on a single vibrantly green flower stem and wild petal colors in a sea of tans and browns, maybe it’s a real flower or just a child’s drawing on the fridge door. I don’t want to know that a girl is excited. That can mean a whole slew of things. Instead, show me how she bounces on her toes, how her breath catches, how she bites her lip.

Avoid having your characters “notice” things. I don’t want to know that she noticed that he had slender arms. I want him to wrap his slender arms around her.

Avoid letting description hold YOU up. If you can’t think of anything witty or clever to say, either don’t say it or make a note to add it in later. Either mark the space with ALL CAPS SO YOU NOTICE IT, or just use a comment using tracked changes. Editing is a writer’s greatest tool!

How do we build great settings while avoiding those things?

There are lots of things you can focus on! Time of year, day, the temperature, lighting, geography, etc! If it’s around the holiday season, maybe there are Christmas carols blaring from store speakers. How does this make your character feel? Annoyed? Amused? If it’s a Monday, maybe everyone in their office cubes are sullen. If it’s Friday, maybe they constantly glance at the clock. If it’s cold, is it cold enough to see their breath? Does it effect how long it takes them to dress to leave the house? If it’s set in a desert climate, don’t use objects unless they’d have come across them before. If I showed a bikini to a Wildling in Game of Thrones, would they know what it was?

Use the five senses as much as you can. Texture and scent can evoke the most memory receptors in a reader and really help your story sing. Think about what different rooms smell like, different lands or people. What scents carry on the breeze? Food to someone who has recently stuffed themselves silly will be less appealing to someone who hasn’t eaten in a week, and the two would describe the smells of a steak in entirely different ways.

If you want to show what a room looks like without listing furniture, use the characters to show the objects. Perhaps a dark wall color highlights the white hair of your mage. Maybe the rough wooden table catches the fine silk of a Queen’s dress. Maybe the painting on the wall is the image of a dead relative and they talk to it, ala Cher’s mom in Clueless. If there’s a large table in the room, have your character go around it. Scatter the bits around the page: don’t describe the floral scent until they see the vase of cut flowers. Don’t describe the softness of a couch until the character sinks into it.

If you want to describe a scary scene, instead of stopping to describe the dark forest, use details as the character runs. Maybe it’s dark enough that they can’t see far but they can hear footsteps. Maybe branches leave cuts. Does their focus narrow so much that they don’t see the vines or roots and get tripped up?

If you describe something, make sure that something has a purpose for being described. Noting the location of a dresser or mirror or bed in a room is not something a character would do if they lived in that room. They’d notice the smaller things, the things out of place, the new thing they just got. If that character went into the bedroom of their crush, want to go and feel the smoothness of the sheets, inhale the scent of the closet, examine the bric-a-brac on the shelves. They wouldn’t do that in their own room, that’d be weird. If that same person went into the room of their crush after a breakup, what would they notice then? The sloppy sock tucked under the bed? The closet door that never quite shut right? The way the light comes in the window and shines in their eyes when they try to sleep?

How would a character from a wintry land describe something as opposed to someone from a desert land? One would see snowflakes and not pay any attention. The other would see sand as an everyday annoyance. Someone from a farm would look at a riding a subway car different from someone from the city that rides it everyday.

Does their financial background change the way they see things? A queen and a pauper might notice different things when they enter the throne room. The queen might see her throne or the new dresses of the courtiers. The pauper might notice how everything shines, the velvety texture of the curtains, the sharpness of the faces around them or the cut glass of a chandelier.

Maybe their mood defines the way they see things. Someone that is grumpy or depressed would be annoyed at a group of friends laughing nearby. Someone who is happy would have their mood dampened by seeing a funeral precession go by. A senior in high school would look at Prom differently than a freshman who still has three more years of them.

Instead of listing articles of clothing, say instead that she sputtered and shivered as drips of iced tea made their way under her woolen sweater.

What are some of your favorite settings and descriptions? Share them with me on twitter using the #RevPit hashtag!

#RevPit Setting Workshop

Join RevPit me on Twitter on Tuesday September 12th at 6pm for a #RevPit Setting Workshop!

I will be talking about ways to bring your setting to life, specifically, using all five of the senses to really give them some spark without going all purple.

Here's how things will work:

I will send out a few tweets at 6pm announcing the game and the rules and some tips on setting the scene using all five senses.


We will be playing a game, ala $100k Pyramid. I will do a few rounds herself to get the flow going.

If you want to do a round, DM me at @OnlyCassandra (If you're not following me on Twitter already, please do so I can DM you!) and I will pick a few to do a round or two. That person will publicly post using the #RevPit hashtag and try to describe something using as many of the five senses as they can but without saying what it is they're describing.  Could be a place, a thing, a feeling, who knows!

Everyone else will try to guess what that item is.

Then everyone can have a few minutes to give other ideas on how to describe that particular thing if you think you've got a good one!

Hope to see you there!

Welcome!

Hey guys!

I offer competitive pricing and a friendly approach that takes the worry out of writing. 
With a quick turn around time and experience you can trust, your work will be transformed 
into a book you can afford to be proud of.

Be sure to visit my blog at OnlyCassandra.com for more about me
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