Ch 1 Blunders: Generic Settings

pop-up cards - little houses (Little boxes made of ticky tacky / and they all look just the same)(Photo Credit: Popupology)

Don’t leave the reader guessing about where the story takes place!

Last month, I received some fantastic feedback on the first quarter of my current MS. For this series of articles, I will draw from the remarks of my wonderful Beta readers and discussions I have had with other writers on these topics.

In some ways, I started my reader off in a generic setting. Here were three bloopers that I made in the first chapter…

  • Genre can easily be established through setting details. A shoreline backed by imposing cliffs seems a distinctive setting but could appear in many different genres.  Add a dragon in the sky, a castle on top of the cliff, or a metal dome instead of sky, and you have swiftly taken advantage of genre — and oriented the reader — with very few words.
  • Any old shoreline.  After (or while) you’ve established genre, show what makes this shoreline into this shoreline and not another in your world. One way to do this is to use landmarks personally important to the reader. Have the dragon circle her home, the castle belong to her brother, the shoreline is the only shoreline in the space station.
  • Missed opportunities: Okay, I did not do this in this book — but I have in others! How does the shoreline play into other elements of the story? It may be a recurrent setting, a symbol for the edge of two choices the heroine must make, set the mood, and so forth.

DISCLAIMER: This was feedback for one author’s MS and should not be taken as all-or-nothing advice for all stories.

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