Story Settings and Capturing Real Life in Your Story

coffee dateHi everyone! I hope you all had a great Christmas 🙂

Since I missed my coffee date in November, I wanted to make sure I did one in December, so although it’s not Friday, today is a good day to answer a couple questions from my readers. So here we go!

Mary Jo asks: “I am always impressed by the way you describe the settings, places, surroundings in such detail. You make us feel as if we are right there with your characters. Do you see the settings you describe in your mind before you put them in print? Or do you use some other process?”

One thing my editor taught me was the importance of setting, especially in a fantasy book where you are introducing your readers to a whole new world. I actually have a list I follow of things to include and I establish the setting at the beginning of the chapter or scene so the reader can have the place firmly set in his or her mind. To find the list I use, here is a link to it (#96):

But how do I figure out what a place should look, smell, and feel like? One of my favorite sites to use is Pinterest. I love looking at pictures and figuring out what a place looks like, or the room, or the castle, or the person. I also use google a lot for research. And it doesn’t hurt to have an active imagination :). If you want to see some of my research on Pinterest or follow my boards, click here:

Lastly, one of the secrets to a great setting is to use as many of the senses as you can. I have always had an very sensitive nose and pick up more scents than the usual human, which has come in handy with putting smells into my scenes. I also use all my experiences such as places I have visited, or the feel of something, or how something tasted, and use it to make a scene come more alive.

Thanks for the great question!


Camilla asks: ” I love to hear about situations in books that actually happened in REAL life! Your life or a family member’s, perhaps?”

In Son of Truth when Nierne realizes she doesn’t believe the Word will save her, that was based on an event in my life. I had always believed God would take care of me until the day came when I needed Him the most. In that moment, however, I did not believe He would come through. It was faith shattering for me (I was a young pastor’s wife at the time). How could I not believe God? But I couldn’t deny what was deep inside my heart. It was the truth. It is easy to believe in God when everything is going your way. But it is hard to step off the cliff and believe God will catch you. (Here is the post I wrote on that: No Faith, Know Faith)

Since then, I have come up again and again to that point of do I believe God will take care of me: When my husband was let go of a church, when we had no money, when my son was very sick. Each time it has been a battle of my own self-preservation versus letting go and believing God. I cling to the edge and cry. I don’t want to let go. But God gently helps me let go and carries me down.

He has always caught me. He has always taken care of me. That was what I wanted to share through the character of Nierne. She grew up as a scribe and knew everything about the Word, but she had a long way to go to where her faith was transferred from her head to her heart.

Thank you, Camilla, for the great question!

If you have any questions you want to ask, whether it is about my life, my writing, or my stories,  feel free to post it in the comments below or email me for my coffee date next month. I love interacting with my readers and this is one way where we can get to know each other 🙂


6 thoughts on “Story Settings and Capturing Real Life in Your Story”

  1. Loved the bit of advice about using as many senses as possible. I always got in trouble with that with my critique group when it was active.

    How do you go about finding a critique group or critique partner? How important is that in finishing your novels?

  2. Hey! Visiting from the GTW’s link-up.
    Woah, I really like the idea of a coffee date! That is way cool. 🙂

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