You need to use all your senses to make the setting for your novel live. Color is one of the first ingredients we think of when we are describing a setting. But don’t always go for the conventional. Your first thought is that the sky is blue and the grass in the garden is inevitably green. Try something different, like the sky was duck blue with flecks of dark grey, indicating that bad weather, and maybe a dark twist in the plot- is imminent. What if the grass in the garden has a strange brown ring mark at one end which hadn’t been there the day before? You can see that a small setting detail can give you ideas for plot development – you’re wondering if something sinister caused that brown ring.

When you introduce colors, don’t stick with blue, red, green etc. Think of the different shades like azure blue; ruby red, daffodil yellow etc. Then add some noise. Close your eyes and listen to what you can hear – maybe the hum of your computer; maybe your husband downstairs as he assembles a piece of furniture; the radio that you forgot to switch off in the bathroom; some birds in the garden serenading you ….

One of the best ways to get into your setting is to describe a place you know well. You could describe the house you grew up in, but put it in a different part of the country. You could describe the smells, colors and general atmosphere in a shop that you know, but maybe in a different part of the world. If you’re still having trouble, collect pictures from newspapers and magazines – houses, gardens, rooms. Put them in a folder. Or assemble the postcards you brought home from a holiday somewhere exotic. Here are a few tips to help you:

  1. Take a scene from your novel in progress , and then write a postcard to a friend, as though you are describing what the place is like.
  2. Think of a room you know well, and what it means to you. Write a scene that takes place in that room. Include dialogue and action but also convey a strong sense of the room through smell, noise and color.
  3. Think of a shop, school, library or any public space you’ve been in lately. What was it like? What happened there? What did it smell like? What kind of noises did you hear? What colors stand out in your mind? Who did you meet there? Could you integrate any of that into your book
  4. Write about a place you know that has scared you or made you feel uneasy. Why? Was it because it was dark? Was it because of noise or lack of noise? Could this be the setting for a scene designed to make the reader feel nervous too?

Your setting should be memorable, so bring all your senses into play. If I can help you (free of charge) with any writing problems, write to me at Many of my books are now available at discount, and my favorite novel of all the 14 I have written, is being re-published in Israel next month – it is titled “Esther” – A Jerusalem Love Story. Happy writing.


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