How to Describe a Setting: 3 Tips

Settings can be a powerful way of exploring culture, nature, and history — it can also be a way to show the internal joy and pain of your characters who reside within the setting.

Think about the setting you are in: are you enjoying it or are you wanting to leave? How the setting affects us says a lot about who we are. Keep this in mind the next time you write your character into a setting.

Do they want to leave or have they finally made it?

If you want to create a realistic setting for your characters to interact with, consider these 3 aspects when writing:

1. What are the physical elements?

Can you point out where this place is on a map? Are you able to describe the floor plan? Knowing where your setting is located will help you determine how far your character needs to travel to get from one spot to another or where they need to go to retrieve an item or find someone to talk to.

2. What does the place look like?

The appearance of a setting can help the reader learn a lot about it. Does the setting have well-paved roads or are the infrastructures in ruins? Has there been a recent war or is this place prospering? Is the kitchen clean or is it gross and messy? A setting can tell the reader a lot about the history and those that reside there.

3. How do the characters feel?

Does the character want to be there? Does it bring back wonderful memories or has it been a prison for him? What your characters do within that setting will give more details into the relationship between the person and the place. In the end, you can describe the setting all you want, but if the character is not responding to those details appropriately, you will lose your readers.

 

Interested in learning more about writing and editing? Follow my vlog and join me as I write an epic story.

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I Drive A $160 Million Ride

jet plane for war

I get it, it sounds like bragging, but It’s not like I get to ride it wherever I want.

I’m like a glorified bus driver. Taking orders and executing it to perfection. That’s what I love about bus drivers, they are the heartbeat of a community. Think about it, how do you get your broke-ass around the city? You take that awful cramped smelly bus. Someone has to drive that awful mortuary on wheels, and that person is called a bus driver.

Earning trust isn’t easy. Earning so much trust that someone will let you drive something that expensive is unprecedented. Think of the last time you let a friend drive your car. No car? Okay, think of the last time you let a friend ride your bike. No bike? Think of the last time you let your friend borrow your Pulp Fiction DVD. A part of you knew you would never see that DVD again.  

You have unreliable friends. I’m simply going to leave it at that. You’re no better. They say you become the people you surround yourself with.

I’m not saying it’s your fault. There really isn’t anything you can do. But listen, you can only carry so much in your life, and if you want good things, you’d need to drop some of the bad. If you want to have a $160M ride, you’d need to get some cooler, more reliable – or at least richer — friends.

That’s what I did.

Look, I’m not a motivational speaker or a life coach or anything like that. I’m simply one of the most successful jet fighters in the academy.

When something needs to get nuked — and get nuked fast. They call me. I tell them to give me a two-week notice, but they always call me last minute, and believe me, as I get into the plane, I’m a bit resentful, but heck, not everyone can do what you want. And that’s why I don’t think you will listen to me either. Who am I anyways… I’m just an employee.

But I think I have a pretty good job. I know this because, whenever I tell people what I do, they perk up and ask, “How do you become a warplane pilot?”

It makes me feel pretty good. I know that accountants don’t get that same type of fanfare. “How did you become a CPA?” We all know how to become an accountant: by killing yourself from the inside. JK accountants are cool. Crunching numbers and all that good stuff.

I always wonder what it would be like to have a simple job and a simple life. You know, wake up, brew coffee, play with my children and teach them the importance about following their dreams but not doing so myself, go to a job where I sit at a computer, talk about my fantasy team with my colleagues, meet my monthly quota (whatever that means, I hear it being said on the television sometimes), and then come home eat dinner and do it all over again.

Would I trade a day of my life with a paper pusher? Absolutely. I think I can sit at a desk and open and close browsers, and pretend to be working by emailing myself thoughtful musings. I would be the employee of the fucking month.

I’m what you would call an over-achiever. Whatever scenario you put me in, I am going to over excel. I remember when I was a little boy, playing doctor dodgeball. The objective of doctor dodgeball is simple — you remember the movie, Hacksaw Ridge? It’s like that but in dodgeball form. So, while war is raging and casualties are falling, the doctors will come and retrieve the fallen elementary school students.

Was I a doctor? Fuck no. I was the slayer of the enemy’s doctors. Kill the doctors. Win the war. That mentality has stayed with me into adulthood. That is how I overachieve. You don’t try to be the person who mends and heals and talk nicely to people. You need to be the person that destroys your enemy’s top resources. You can say that is how I got into this gig: I kind of fell into it.

After the dodgeball game, a talent scout came up to me and said, “Wow kid, I see a lot of potential in you.”

I told him I can give him an autograph but if he wants to negotiate a deal or discuss my future, he would have to contact my attorney and management team.

My manager, Travis, got back to me about a week later with a simple proposal. Flying jet planes. I said, “That sounds like fun.” And the rest is history.

Look, a lot of people are going to tell you that all you can amount to is someone who helps people who sit at computers for a living file taxes, but listen! That’s not true. If you have this secret desire to kill people and express it in a way that can attract the government, and be lucky enough to exhibit that skillset in an arena where federal officials are present, then you too can have an awesome ride and an awesome life like me.

I drive a $160 million jet plane to and from work every day. My office is in the skies over the Middle East. I love my life. Do you love yours?  

 

What you’ve just read is the sixth post in a series entitled “A Fan Fiction of My Life by My Number One Fan, Me.” Please check out the first five posts from the series:
Me, A Doctor
I Am A Controversial Artist, AMA
A Well-Respected Elderly Man, It’s Me
Bringer of Bad News, I’m the One
Yes, I Am Blind with a Broken Heart

 

Did you enjoy it? Yes, subscribe to this blog, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Twitter, stalk me in real life to get the latest update. 

3 Tips for Introducing a Character in Your Novel

Introducing a character in your novel is a lot like introducing a friend at a party, you shouldn’t tell everybody everything, but rather, just the essential.

From there, you allow the character to engage with his or her surrounding, thus letting everyone else experience the character in action as opposed to you telling the audience everything up front.

When examining how you’ve introduced your character, ask yourself, is this detail relevant? Do the character’s actions show their personality? If so, avoid exposition. Trust that your readers can paint the picture of your character themselves, simply give them the colors they should use and set them off. This is especially important at the beginning of a story, as you don’t want to overload your readers.

How to introduce a character in a novel:

  1. Don’t over describe your characters
  2. Use actions to show traits
  3. Exhibit the character’s flaws

In this video, I’ll give some character introduction examples and gives some writing advice to improve your story.

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

6 Tips to Improve the First Chapter [Video]

 

I’ll admit it, my first chapter was not what I thought it would be… there are many areas I can improve.

I counted 6 areas — at least. In this episode, I’m going to highlight six editing tips that you can use when you start writing and editing your first chapter. It is an important chapter, so it is worth taking the time to get it right. You want to introduce the character and the setting. You want to show off some flair and mystery, but you don’t want to cross the line: offer too much backstory, describe the character too much, or miss the opportunity to do the most important thing: tell your story.

1. Know where your story starts

Are you starting in the middle of an action sequence or a moment of intensity? Or are you starting by easing the readers into the story with a regular average day set up? Knowing where your story begins allows you to set the tone for your story.

2. Don’t Over Describe

You may want to impress everyone with your wonderful word choices, but don’t overload it at the start. The important thing is the story. Allow the actions to illustrate your character’s traits and save some of those well-written descriptions for when you really need them.

3. Have a Main Character

Your readers will need a guide through the plot. It can become hard to follow if multiple characters are jostling for the main storyline. You can switch characters later on, sure, but at the beginning, it is advantageous to appoint a character with the lead.

4. Cut Backstory

Don’t overload your first chapter with too much backstory. It is easy to do because you, as a writer and creator of worlds, want to get all the juicy details, history, and lore onto the page. Which is fine. But you are going to have to cut it in the second draft. I must remind you that backstory, although may play a critical role in the story itself, it is also more impactful if the history can be revealed in a way that it feels well blended into the plot. Too much backstory slows everything down.

5. Don’t Mislead

It might be tempting to add a twist or a surprise into your novel right off the bat. Nothing like a good shock to hook your readers, right? Unfortunately, misleading your reader can piss them off and cause them to put down the book and go off and do something that they know will have an appropriate payoff, like cleaning the house. I implore you to avoid starting any story with a dream or simulation sequence.

6. Can it Be a Short Story?

Forget everything else about your novel. Throw it all away. Actually, don’t. Just put it aside. Take only your first chapter and ask yourself, “If someone found this one the street, and they read it… will it be enough for them to have a good time?” If the answer is yes, then carry on.

I hope these tips helped, please let me know what you think. Love to hear your feedback.

 

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

How Reading Out Loud Improves Writing [Video]

Always read your writing out loud. Like tasting the food before serving it, reading out loud allows you to identify the nuances of your creation, the elements you wouldn’t notice if you simply read silently.

How does reading out loud improve your writing? Well, your brain is a powerful machine, it is able to piece together information, even if the information is not complete. If a word is missing, your brain would be able to fill it in. It’s actually quite remarkable that it is capable of doing that. However, you don’t want your audience — those that are experiencing your writing for the first time — to get tripped up by missing words or odd sounding sentences. These stylistic slip-ups can distract your reader and take them out of your story.

Reading out loud is the most effective technique when editing. If you skip this step, you might end up with a manuscript containing a lot of embarrassing mistakes.

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!   

How Many Drafts Should You Write? [Video]

 

How many drafts should you write?

4. Well… it could be 4 or it could be 400. Every story is different and every writer is different, and there is no one number. You, as the creator and editor, will have to decide when you are ready to show people what you’ve got.

In this episode The Other Epic Story Vlog, I talk about my strategy for editing my novel.

The 4 Phases of Editing

  1. Structural edit
  2. Grammatical, style, and bad habits edit
  3. Feedback edit
  4. Repeat 1-3 Editing your novel is an important step.

While you can spend forever editing, at some point you need to send it out into the world for feedback.

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

After Writing Your First Draft, What’s Next? [Video]

After all the blood, sweat, and tears; after writing your novel. You are now ready for smooth sailing.

Nope! Unless you are both lucky and talented — much more than me, you bastard! — you are going to suffer the trials and tribulations of life after the first draft.

After dumping all your ideas onto paper without worrying about the consequences are over, this is the part where you attempt to make it all make sense. Even if you think you were perfectly coherent while writing the first draft, I can assure you… as I assure myself every time, that what is written in the first attempt is almost laughable.

At some point, you will have to return to the draft but take a break first. You’ve just emptied your brain of all your ideas, now it’s time to let it settle. Relax. After you finish writing your first draft, take a break. Thus returning to it with a fresh new perspective.

 

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Yes, I Am Blind With a Broken Heart

 

When I was young, I asked myself a perplexing question: Which sense would I give up, if I had to give up one of my six senses?

First, I would give up my ability to see dead people.

Then I would give up my sense of smell, because I think that would be the least debilitating. Think about it. The worst part about not being able to smell stuff is that every time I go to a wine tasting, I’ll enjoy the appearance of the liquid in the glass, but then I’ll skip straight to the tastes, forgoing the part where I swill the wine to impart the aromatic elements. I would not dip my snout into the glass, because I wouldn’t be able to smell anyways.

They say when it comes to tasting, smell is the most important part, but hey, I can just fake it. I can tell people I taste [insert obscure descriptor] and lie and nobody will know. That’s the magic of smelling. Nobody knows what I smell, unless I tell them. That’s why they call it the nose… because nobody knows your nose.

But alas, I still have my sense of smell. To my misfortune, it is my sense of sight that has forsaken me. It didn’t happen gradually over the course of a lifetime of seeing. It wasn’t as though there was a dimmer switch. No, with a flick, now I am blind.

 

blind

We rely on our sight a lot. Think about it. Right now you are using your sight. And you know what, you are taking it for granted. Try closing your eyes right now and continue reading this sentence. You can’t do it. You can’t fake it like you can for smell.

Irony. I kind of understand it and I think I’m an example of irony — and arrogance, but we won’t get into that right now.

See, before I went blind, it was my dream to be amongst the athletic best. I wanted to run, skate, and dipsy-doodle with them on the field, court, and monkey cage. I wanted to be a world class referee.

I believe every kid wants to grow up to be an authoritative figure. You know, to power trip every once in a while. That’s a good feeling. Not necessary to get what you want but to refrain others from getting what they want. It makes me feel like I exist. It makes me feel like a big man. And at 5’7” 140 pounds, I am average, if not under average depending on the sample size you are comparing me to.

So here’s a story: I remember as a child, my parents would take me to the store. We would get lunch and they will always buy me the kid-sized meal. “I’m not a kid anymore,” I would shout at them, adorably. “I want a large!”

They calmly explained to me that if I can finish my kid-sized meal then they will happily buy me another kid-sized meal if I’m still hungry. I thought that was bullshit. I didn’t want two kid-sized meal. I wanted to be treated with respect for who I was. I mean, I wasn’t a “kid” anymore. Sure, I wasn’t making any money, didn’t have to pay taxes, couldn’t be trialed as an adult if I was to commit a heinous crime, but still, in the eyes of me, a soon to be blind person, I was an adult.

So, I did what any self-motivated kid would do. Yep, I didn’t ask for permission to throw a tantrum, I just did it. In front of all the people at the food court.

Did I get the large size? No. Did I ruin my parent’s day at the mall? Yes.

That’s when I knew, I had an extraordinary gift. I’m going to be a referee when I grow up. Think about it. Yes, true you don’t know me that well, but it really is the culmination of all my skills. I’m handsome, athletic, charismatic, dashing, large penis having, and at an angle, kind of look like Daniel Craig coming out of the ocean. I was destined to be a sport guy referee of some sort.  

At least, that was the dream. The thing they don’t tell you is that you can’t be a referee if you are blind. You sometimes watch a sporting event on television and you see that the referee made a ridiculous call or completely missed a penalty or whatever happens to cause or not cause an infraction in a sport game. It’s not uncommon for you to shout out that cliche remark, because you are so unoriginal: “What the hell, ref?! Are you blind?”

Turns out, the answer will always be “no.”

I know this now.

I went blind in my last year of high school, where I was reffing the regional championship game. Points were scored, sweat did dripped, and I went blind. Although it was my eyes that suffer the brunt of the poky fingers, it was my heart that was broken.

It was horrific. One moment I was brushing some eye booger from my optical glands, the next moment I have blinded myself. I was carrying the sword that slayed me. I don’t remember screaming, but apparently I was. Screaming like I did when my parents wouldn’t get me a large? Nobody can be for sure.

Rehabilitation took months. At the end of it all, I was a shattered version of the man I used to be. Picture me: sitting on a wheelchair placed in front of a window. What’s the weather outside? I couldn’t tell you. Why was I in a wheelchair? I don’t know, hospital sometimes have wheelchairs left in the hallway, so I guess I was just lead to one and placed there. Sitting, I decided I’m not going to give up on my dreams. People will respect my authority!

But they didn’t. I applied to be a referee for every league possible, but none even gave me a pity acceptance. Sometimes you can do that with job applications. If you look really sad and desperate and say things like “It was my dream to do this…” the employers will hire you. Trust me. It works sometimes. But I guess, not this time for me.

I guess that’s my sad story. My broken dream. I saw my potential as clearly as a Windex sales associate, but it was the world that was blind. It’s the world that couldn’t see what I could do. I could have blazed the trail and inspire a whole generation. I could have been the greatest blind referee to ever live. In a way, I still am! If life is a sport, then I am the ref. For now, I sit there and shout things at people on the street, blowing my whistle, and being crazy for loving what I do.

 

What you’ve just read is the fifth post in a series entitled “A Fan Fiction of My Life by My Number One Fan, Me.” Please check out the first four posts from the series:
Me, A Doctor
I Am A Controversial Artist, AMA
A Well-Respected Elderly Man, It’s Me
Bringer of Bad News, I’m the One

 

Did you enjoy it? Yes, subscribe to this blog, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Twitter, stalk me in real life to get the latest update. 

What Should I Cut From My Novel? [Video]

 

What should I cut from my novel?

We all want the answer to that question to be nothing. The novel is perfect. Publish it and earn your spot on the New York Times best sellers list. Oh, our delusions. That simply isn’t the case. When we write, often times, we are trying to get all the words down on the paper. What we don’t often see when we are churning away is that some of the characters, subplots, and scenes are unfocused and doesn’t serve the over-arching plot.

When we reread and edit, we must do so with a critical eye, take a step back from the prose itself and ask: does all this connect?

Even if the writing is fantastic, if it doesn’t serve the plot, it might have to be eliminated.

Many authors have said it, so I might as well say it again: Kill your darlings.

Kill your darlings does not mean cutting the parts of the story you love the most, but rather, making the edits that are best for the story, not your ego. Yes, we all want to keep that delightful character that we skillfully crafted or relish in that scene where an epic action sequence occurred, however, if those elements aren’t serving the greater good: the story, then it is best to remove them.  

 

Game plan:

My prologue was not a darling, it was an information dump. I have an idea to make it a more encapsulating scene, and I tend to do so after I finish reading through the novel. If I approach it correctly, I will be able to tie the prologue to the actual storyline of a plot. Yes, that is the plan.

 

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Why Write a Prologue? [Video]

Sometimes, in order to tell the most effective story, your audience needs to have a bit more information than what the plot can supply.

A prologue can do that. A prologue can add a bit of historical detail, usually to introduce an antagonist of some sort through a particular circumstance.

In the first book of the Song of Ice and Fire series, The Game of Thrones, we are introduced, very subtly to the White Walkers as a few members from the Night’s Watch has an unsettling encounter with them.

Or there is The Lord of the Rings, where the Ring and Sauron are introduced.

Prologues are not exclusives to introducing antagonist. They can offer any details your story needs but are unable to fit within the actual plot itself. The term “unable” is a tricky one as with any type of finesse, and if the detail is truly vital, you can surely include the information in the plot without having a prologue.

In the end, a prologue is a decision of an author. If used correctly, it can be an effective first jab at hooking the audience. Done poorly, it can be wasted energy slowing down the velocity of your story.

I believe if you so desire to write a prologue, go for it, but afterward, evaluate whether you are simply dumping information onto a page or you are telling an exciting extension of your story and that these detail given at the beginning will be connected later on.

If the detail doesn’t link up, then in the second draft, you might have to cut the prologue. Or, rewrite it so it can do that.

The prologue I wrote for my novel at this time is an idea dump. It’s exposition. I needed it to frame the world I’m going to be creating, but now that I look upon it, I know there is much to be improved on.

 

The last message sent digitally was to let everyone beyond the border know that there was still hope. The slicing of the cyber thread caused all historical records to vanish. Everything men once knew was forgotten, buried by the erosion of time.

Nature hid humanity’s errors. Towers that once pierced the sky were now rubbles and broken stones. Sprouting forests healed lands that have been scarred by highway concrete. Dams broke, bridges collapsed, and everything else that men had made was surmounted by earth, until all remnants of prior existence were lost.

Yet springing from the ashes came life in the familiar forms. Millenniums passed, and there living without knowledge, upon the land that their ancestors had forfeited were new civilizations. Townships, unions, and districts built so far apart, that societies were forced into isolation. Those that lived were simple folks, concerned only with the matters of survival. Yet life was still hidden in a shroud of darkness and mystery. But those who did not understand did not complain, however, those that did, could only stand terrified as they faced the uncertainty.

 

What are your thoughts on prologues? Do you use them in your writing? I’d love to hear about it.

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