So you can read my books

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Here is a little reflection on how setting can be made alive in your novels:

Look around you.

Hearts have grown cold,

ears dull,

minds impatient.


And this affects you as a writer just how?


Each page of your novel could be the reader's last ...

unless ...


unless you make your novel alive and alluring.


People pick up a book in a store, thumb through it, and read a page at random.

That is your only shot at snaring him/her into buying what cost you years of sweat and effort.


Make each page count. Make each paragraph breathe. Make each moment live in the mind of the reader.

Each of the senses should be touched by your words. 

And one of the ways you do that is to paint your locale with such brushstrokes of prose, the reader "sees" and "feels" and "smells" the unique flavors of your locale.

New Orleans:

Hollow-eyed mothers hugging hungry children within a block of spacious mansions, framed by lush bushes and gleaming iron lacework fences.

Decaying public schools slowly devolving into raucous social jungles and tribal warfare over gang colors and drug territory.

A hardened, jaded police department that in some seasons can be scarier than the city's criminals. 

Official corruption at every level. 

Murder rates ever soaring. And hot, steamy air you can wear 7 months out of the year.


And it is a wonderful place to live:

The morning mists parting as the St. Charles streetcar happily clatters through the shimmering fog under the avenue's great oak trees.

The second-line parade of trumpet blowers high-stepping intricate steps in honor of some event or another.

The mellow, haunting notes of Ellis Marsalis playing piano as you sit at Snug Harbor, sipping a drink light on alcohol, heavy on taste.


You must paint your reader into your locale with words that touch the taste buds, stroke their cheeks, and tug on their heartstrings.

Only then, with the setting so real that they hear the sound of throaty laughter and fine jazz, 

will the Stetson wearing, doomed hero, Samuel McCord, feel like an actual person to them.



Each city whispers in its own voice. Your city. My city.

You know streets that whisper to stay away at night.

You know what scandal has stained some avenue beyond repair. 

You know what person's name is spoken in hushed tones long after he or she has died and been buried in your city.

Each city has its own personality. Like a human's, it changes with trauma, years of abuse, and moments of historic impact.

Lifting the veil from the distinctive features of the setting of your novel makes your whole narrative come alive for your reader.

But how do you do that verbal sleight of hand?


Some obvious to tourists. Some that you have to ferret out by research in the library, on the internet, or by listening to a local visitor to your setting.



How does your hero/heroine feel about those details? How have they affected the protagonist and those important to him or her?

Weave those details and emotions into a rich tapestry of irony and longing.

What shadowed corner of your setting is especially dangerous or emotion-laden to your central characters? Why?

Paint a passage where that tapestry flutters in the shadows, not quite completely seen but more evocative because of that.



What era is it in your setting? Has your protagonist lived through more than one era of time in it?

How has the passing seasons shaped his/her mind, opinions, and outlook for the present? For the future? 

How does your protagonist view his and the setting's past?

Master these points, and your novel will live for your reader.

For D G Hudson and all lovers of MIDNIGHT IN PARIS


  1. Hi Roland - wise words, and words we should adhere to when we write. I love the Louis L'Amour "Walking the Drum" - such an interesting saga (almost) .. incredible detail ... so much to learn and take in. Also the settings he writes took me to places I'd never been - but sort of could imagine ... Mediterranean into the Middle Eastern plains and seas ...

    Fascinating - and how true ... we need to be taken there by the author .. cheers Hilary

    1. "Almost" an interesting saga. Oops. Sorry about that. But I am glad you enjoyed the detail and settings. "May there be a road." :-)

  2. Merci, Roland, thank you for the musical memories! That cheered me this morning, especially when sung by Madeleine Peyroux, one of my fave female singers. Much appreciated as everyday life has been hectic lately. And of course I love Midnight in Paris, and wish I could have such an experience. . .As for the writing, I do try to inject those senses with which our memory becomes entangled. Great advice. Hope all is well with you.

    1. Yes, I love Madeleine Peyroux, too. I even have a cameo of her in CREOLE KNIGHTS.

      Hate to hear that your life has been hectic of late. :-(

      Wouldn't it be wonderful to slip into the movie MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and go back in time to meet those authors?

      I am on solo duty this weekend. Fun, fun! :-)