Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Captivating Settings

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!


Captivating Settings

Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

One of the most important elements for any writer is to establish a “voice”—one that is recognizable, and somewhat expected by the reader as you continue to present more works. The ideal way to imprint your particular voice, cadence, tempo, tone is by setting your scenes. Once you truly place the reader at the location, whether it is a city, neighborhood, store or house, they become comfortable and willing to take the journey with the characters you present.

I write psychological suspense thrillers, therefore ominous settings are crucial in my novels. In this chapter you will find examples from STACCATO and SNARE to give you an idea of my personal writing voice when it comes to settings.

It is important to put the reader at ease and to give them a visual at the beginning of each chapter, especially the first time the location is presented.

The first scene of STACCATO, our hero, the twenty-year-old world-class pianist Nicholas Kalman discovers his father’s journal hidden away in the music room of the mentor who has raised him for a decade:

Compelled by the words, he found it impossible to re-shelve the book, or to dismiss the pages as utter fiction. He wondered what the written implications meant for him. Reading his father’s recollections, he had fallen under their spell. His father warned of the seductive elements to be cautious of—things that had already ensnared Nicholas.

Looking around, he recognized what his father had described as cunning manipulations of deceiving comfort: first edition books exhibited within walnut cases surrounding him in a ritualistic circle, the ebony Steinway grand piano that sat regally upon a platform in the middle of the music room, exactly as the writings stated. The details even noted how flames from the fireplace bathed the Pakistani rug in an amber glow.

In the introduction scene, first pages of SNARE, we meet eight-year-old Katina Salvo and within a few paragraphs discover the life she is burdened with in 1995:

She wished for a radio or record player, anything that might drown out the sounds. She wondered how long this fight would last. There had been so many in the past few weeks. They seemed to get worse each time.

Streaked ivory wallpaper peeled near the heat register in the cramped bedroom, furnished only with a twin-sized bed and scuffed desk. The room displayed none of the comforts the few kids she knew took for granted. A tattered, handmade quilt, passed down from her father’s mother, offered the only color in the room. Its unraveling edge brushed against the frayed braided rug on the floor.

Both of these examples provide setting information for the reader, and the details show insights to what have formed these characters as people.

Every element you introduce must be used somewhere within the novel you are writing. Think of this as foreshadowing what will come. Make certain that each prop (such as furniture) introduced is instrumental and will be used later in the novel. The point is not to introduce anything that will not be useful to the reader. Be careful of “info-dumping” when it comes to creating your settings.

For instance in SNARE, this is the description of the stage where Katina Salvo will perform live for the first time—where chaos soon ensues:

Stage lights were now set for a mere amber glow and soon she could make out a knot of people near the stage opening at the farthest end of the wings. As she moved to them, she noticed someone had closed the main curtain and she realized the effect would add to the mystery. It would also provide a much more dramatic entrance than if the drape were already open.

In STACCATO, Nicholas’s nemesis, Alexander Boden, is described in the setting Nicholas always thought of as home, where terror now reigns. This passage is described within the journal by Nicholas’s father that the son has discovered adds to the suspense that follows:

Lips holding an easy smile. Clothes flawless and crisp, shoes polished like mirrors, cufflinks gleaming in tailored shirts. The cane tapping.

Tap. Tap. Tap. You hear it approaching, but you can’t escape.


Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

Leave a comment

Filed under books, writing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.