"The book’s strength is in its characters and descriptions… The setting was a character in itself. I loved the town! The author really made it come to life, not stinting on details (but not boring the reader either)… the writing kept me turning pages and I never once thought about setting it down."
This is a partial quote from Long and Short Reviews for The Art of Love and Murder. And they aren't the only one to comment on my setting for the novel. What a compliment. My stories are always character driven so it made me stop and think that maybe my settings are another character.
My guest, Lynda Coker, on Friday, talked about world building - great post - and she got me thinking about my own world building methods.
I start with real places; use a little reality and a lot of imagination. When I write a scene, I put myself there, look around and decide just how much is needed to put the reader beside me. It's happening here, now! You've all read books where they go on and on about every little detail down to the color of the pen on the desk. Not my kind of book.
Some times I throw in brief descriptions throughout a scene to make a picture. For instance, from chapter one of The Art of Love and Murder:
Her head swung side to side, but the empty street and sidewalks could have been a ghost town. In the distance, a jazzy tune drifted through the air with voices too far away to help.
“Breezeway? Yes, well, it’s not like it’s an alley for Pete’s sake, with trashcans and rats.” She glanced back at the darkness she’d escaped. “It’s paved with brick, and the doors have signs on them.
The old-fashioned street lamp lit his hair…
Thin-soled sandals didn’t help her wobbly knees on the cobbled cement, scored to look like stone…
When she reached the Monte Vista, she climbed the steps, took hold of the ornate, brass door handle…
Ahead, on the corner of the breezeway and Santa Fe Street, the sounds of the Lumberjack Brewery invaded the night…
He passed the back entrance of the Kachina Café, the rich smells of Mexican food drifting into the air from the plates of the people sitting at the patio tables.
Once known as Route 66, businesses, bars and shops flanked one side; the railroad tracks skirted the other.
He turned on his heel, retracing his path back up the breezeway. He’d left his Cherokee parked not far from the Monte Vista. He’d eaten dinner at Jane’s Whole Earth and had a beer with a friend at the Broken Arrow.
Other times, I do interject longer (but not too long) descriptions of the setting:
The short flight of stairs challenged her as she trudged, tiredly pulling each foot up to the next step. The floral carpeting, narrow hallway and gold patterned wallpaper transported her back in time. The renowned hotel, beautifully restored, reflected the era of the 1920’s. The antiquated wall lamps dimly lit the hall, casting warm shadows of the past. She walked the hall that many famous people had traipsed in the last century.