Lynnette Jalufka

One of my favorite settings is from Winston Graham’s novel, Ross Poldark, which takes place in the Cornwall region of England. In it, the sea forms a beautiful backdrop to the action, and is as much of a character as the humans. It is always there, always moving. Here’s a sample:

It was a bright day with a cold wind off the land. The sea was flat and green with a heavy groundswell. The long, even ridge of a wave would move slowly in, and then as it met the stiff southeasterly breeze its long top would begin to ruffle like the short feathers of an eider duck, growing more and more ruffled until the whole long ridge toppled slowly over and the wintry sun made a dozen rainbows in the mist flying up from its breaking. 



World Building

Here’s a world building blog I posted on 4-30-15.  Enjoy!


World Building

by Adam Huddleston


For writers who set their stories in the world as it exists today or in the past, the concept of world building may not be quite as important as it is to folks like me; the fledgling sci-fi/fantasy author.  Real places with real people populate their work so they simply write what they know (or could find out through a basic internet search).  What happens when you want to set your story on the planet Xynon in the Gordita galaxy?  Or what if the country of your protagonist’s birth happens to be Fargan, where it rains peanut butter and jelly?

Mountains of books have been written on the subject of world building.  I would highly recommend “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card, author of “Ender’s Game.”  He takes the major facets of world building chapter by chapter and explains them very well.

Once you get a feel for the different aspects: geography, peoples, history, religion, flora/fauna, etc. it is just a matter of developing them into a cohesive environment.  Generally speaking, the deeper you delve into each part of world-building, the richer your work will be.

Another bit of advice: If you are going to create something that does not exist in the real world, you must make it relatable to something that is.  What I mean is, the reader needs to be able to understand what it is they are reading about.  For example, if you say, “the warfle crawled along the ground” give a good description of it so the reader won’t be lost.

Along the same lines, use real adjectives and verbs.  Don’t say “the warfle cavadered along the sand.”  Your reader has no idea what “cavadered” means.  Just use crawled, slunk, etc.

Hopefully these suggestions will give you a jump-start in the practice of world-building.  Happy writing!

Setting the Mood

Outtakes 402

Setting the Mood

By Cait Collins


The place is important in the setting, but it also needs to create a connection to the characters and the situation.  For example is the location a sleepy village or a bustling city?  Are the citizens staunch conservatives or progressives.  Are there multiple churches and faiths, or just a few houses of worship?  Is it a comfortable atmosphere, or are there tense under currents?

How would you describe the downtown architecture:  modern, traditional, or colonial?  Do you feel a sense of history?  Are there historic statues in the parks?  Are there markers providing facts about the events or the sites?  Are there parades on Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day?  What about the 4th of July?

As your protagonist walks the streets, do the citizens greet him or ignore him?  Are the people divided between the haves and have nots?’  Who’s the money man?

With these choices in mind, write the opening paragraph of your novel or short story.

Twilight settled softly on the dusty town.  A gentle breeze moved the leaves and dirt across the weathered boards of the sidewalk.  Stanton stepped down the two wooden steps and on to the concrete road. He’d been in town for two days and no one except the waitress in the diner had said “Hi” to him.  Burnett, Texas was just like him mother had described, dirty, depressing, and dead.



Lynnette Jalufka


I noticed when revising my novel that my characters spent a lot of travel time on horseback going back and forth between castles. To remedy this, I decided to combine the location of some scenes, which I believe will make the story stronger.

If your characters travel, keep in mind how long it will take them to go from Point A to Point B. This is especially important if they ride horses. A good average for a horse is about twenty miles a day at a walk. That is dependent on several factors: the weather, the size of the entourage, and the urgency of the trip. Going faster requires alternating between different gaits. On a crucial mission in 1336, King Edward III of England traveled 381 miles in seven days with a small retinue. That is 55 miles a day. Horses that compete in endurance racing today can cover 100 miles over tough terrain in fifteen hours.

No matter what mode of transportation you choose for your story, don’t overlook the time it takes your characters to reach their destination.

Settings in Science Fiction

Settings in Science Fiction

by Adam Huddleston

Last week I wrote about settings in the fantasy genre.  Creating a fantasy setting can be a huge undertaking.  When it comes to science fiction however, the approach to world building is a little different.

I would venture to say that most science fiction stories are set either in our world, or in what we know of outer space.  In these cases, the author doesn’t have to create a new setting, just assure that the elements of the setting are practical considering what we know.  In other words, the environment, peoples, flora/fauna, etc. of the story’s world may be our own.

It is perfectly acceptable to bend and stretch the natural laws of this world (it is fiction after all) but sci-fi still lives in a basis of reality.

More Than a Place

Outtakes 401

More Than a Place

By Cait Collins


When I begin working on a new project, I have an idea of where I will build the story.  In other words, where do I want to place my characters?  I try to use familiar locations or places where I’ve lived instead of trying to traverse Central Park when I’ve never been there.  Even though you can get some feel of Central Park from a travel guide, it’s risky to attempt to describe the park when you’re not sure if a particular site is in the north or west part of the park.

When writing How Do You Like Me Now, I used a small west Texas town.  It’s one of those places where everyone knows his neighbor, how often the husband and wife fight, and that Jack was arrested for DWI again.  There are good things and bad, but then that’s true of every place.  By placing my characters in this town, I could describe the shot-gun house, the long, tree-lined driveway and the huge pecan tree in the back yard.  Of course there was a porch swing.

With a familiar setting, you have a better grasp of the citizens.  Are they side-takers?  Do they accept strangers?  Do they fear authority?  Can they accept change?

Bottom line is setting is more than just a location.  The setting encompasses not only the size and location of the town; it’s also the character of the place.  It’s the people and their flaws and good qualities. That’s why I would be hesitant to set a story in a place I had never visited

Don’t Forget The Senses As Part of Your Setting

Don’t Forget The Senses In Your Setting

How does the loss of sight affect your hearing?

What color does an orange smell like?

How loud is an inner voice?

Can you describe how the wind feels?

What does sour taste like?

When I am writing, it’s easy to visualize what I want my characters to see and feel or even smell. However putting it down on paper so that the reader can clearly see them is a difficult task. For example, if I write, “He walked into the room and gazed at the beautiful painting hanging on the wall.” What does the reader see? What object is displayed in the painting? What colors make the painting beautiful? How is it framed?

This dilemma came to life for me when the main character of my novel, UNLAWFUL WORDS, suddenly goes blind. Writing what he saw with his eyes came to an abrupt halt. How do I write his experiences now?

A blindfold

Using a blindfold I spent several hours experiencing the darkness. Immediately I began to depend on my hearing, turning my head from side to side trying to capture all the sounds around me. My hands automatically reached forward hoping to feel something familiar and my feet slowed their steps to prevent stumbling. The objects once identified by sight now had to be described by feeling the texture, or the smell. These are the details that help the reader understand what the character is experiencing.

In your writing, use the basic senses such as taste, touch, hear, see, smell. Be careful not to give the reader sensory overload by giving a long string of description using all five sense on every situation, when generally the use of two or more different senses can tie the picture together for the reader.

Rory C. Keel




Natalie Bright

Your story setting is the location, environment, or atmosphere in which your novel takes place. Some authors believe in getting to know the setting by walking the land.

Here’s the link to a Youtube video with New York Times Bestselling author Jodi Thomas explaining her process. The photos featured in the video were taken by me in the Texas Panhandle, and if you like cows and Texas sunsets and such, you can see more on my blog, Prairie Purview, at or find me on Instagram @natsgrams and Pinterest @natbright

Video: Walking the Land with Jodi Thomas



Lynnette Jalufka


Characters don’t act in a vacuum. Their actions take place somewhere. More than a place, a setting can set the tone, show characterization, create obstacles, and even become a character itself.

In O. Henry’s short story, “The Gift of the Magi,” Della is upset that she doesn’t have enough money to buy her husband a Christmas present. The scene outside describes her mood: “She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard.”

Don’t neglect your settings. They have great power.

Fantasy Settings

Fantasy Settings

by Adam Huddleston


The blog topic this month is “settings”.  The first thing I think about when I think of settings is fantasy fiction.  In my opinion, no other genre (save maybe science fiction) can boast of such robust and imaginative world-building as fantasy.  When it comes to make-believe worlds, not even the sky is the limit.

The joy (and sometimes overwhelming fear) of the fantasy writer is that they often place their story in a setting of their own creation.  This means that the author must imagine the world’s landscape, inhabitants, and history and then place a believable tale within it.  This is not as easy as it may seem.  The setting must complement the characters and plot of the story, without drawing too much attention away from it.

To give a quick example of my own work, one of my fantasy stories I’m working on exists in a world surrounded by a huge, vertical sea wall.  The actual border of their circular, flat planet ends with a wall of water that is hundreds of miles tall.  Since gravity must pull the water away from the land, it causes everything (and everyone) to slide sideways toward the world’s border.  This allows for some exciting, dangerous action scenes.

No matter what your favorite genre to write is, I highly encourage you to try setting a story in a fantasy setting.  It is very fun and definitely strengthens your world-building skills.

Happy writing!