Romance Writing Exercise, Setting – Where are you in the World?


Time: 30-60 minutes


Action Step #1 – Every story takes place in a location. It could be the inside of a paper bag, but it is still important to give the reader a sense that they are “seeing” the location as you do. Description is one nuance that some writers have trouble with. Just like character description, scene description is about more than what you see but how you feel.


Compare the following two passages:


1.      There was nothing but trees for miles. I rolled down the window to get relief from the heat. It seemed like the trip would never end.

2.      The road was flanked by trees that rose above us like green sentinels, guarding the way to Grandma’s house. The heat rose from the highway in shimmery ripples similar to the way water behaves when you stick your finger in a pond. Rolling down the window, I let the wind have its way until tears squeezed from the corner of my eyes. Our journey had only just begun.


Which passage allows you to see more? Both describe this stretch of road, but in a different way.


Action Step #2 –The second passage above makes use of similes, passages using “like” or “as” to show relationship. This is a common way to paint a picture but it can backfire if used to excess. The same goes for metaphors, where the comparison is implied.


Describe a house, any house. Use metaphors and similes throughout. Now, rewrite the passage without them. This is much harder.


Action Step #3 – Setting, especially one in a fantasy or mystery story, requires attention to detail. If the time of day is important to the story, don’t leave it out of your scene. To that end, write what you know. Your street can be picked up and moved anywhere you need it to. Using familiar places as settings eliminates small (and large) mistakes in your story. For example, if the general store is on the corner of First Street, be careful not to have your character finding it in the middle of Third.


Describe a familiar street in your neighborhood. Now, change the scene to nighttime for the setting of a horror story. You have the basics of the setting in your first description. How would you change it?