I see, said the blind man . . .

I have a major setting problem. I see everything clearly in my head, but I’m not great at remembering to put it out there for the reader to see as well. This is why I really love my writerly friends who will critique my work, because about half of their comments are along the lines of, “Emily! Stop dialoguing and start describing!” My next draft after it comes back from my readers is generally a process of inserting setting and description all throughout the book.

Thus this week’s prompt:


Take a prominent setting in your book and describe it in detail through the eyes of one of your characters.



  1. I think you’re on to something, here.

    I’ve seen three kinds of writers, recently: some who are more comfortable with writing dialogue than description (perhaps they should be playwrights instead of novelists), and others who will go to any length to avoid writing dialogue, by describing and paraphrasing conversations, but they still shy away from developing the setting. The third kind are the ones who are writing in the first person, and who go overboard with all kinds of descriptions, apparently because they’re frustrated with not being able to have another point-of-view character, or an at least partially omniscient narrator, to pick up the slack.

    A higher proportion of description to dialogue may be what qualifies as “literary” writing, which has gotten a bad rap from the “less is more” school of writing gurus.

    I don’t have any trouble with describing setting. Offhand, I’d estimate that there are eight pages of dialogue in the first 24 pages of my first novel. It’s a long book, so I won’t hazard a guess about the story as a whole.

  2. I’m totally the same way. I love writing dialogue to the point where it hurts my story, because it’s talking heads and floating voices. There’s no setting to ground them anywhere LOL.

    This is why I picked up two great books on description and am trying to study them more intensely on my second reads: Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan and the Writing Active Setting Series by Mary Buckham. Both of them articulate why setting is needed and what setting can do for your stories so that you’re not afraid of including setting where it’s needed 🙂 .

  3. Pingback: Voices Inside Your Head | Christine Plouvier, Novelist

  4. This is me, too. I struggle with fitting description in naturally. I’m either just dropping it in randomly (“There was a table in the room.”) or trying too hard (“She circumvented the three chairs lining the wall on her way to the office door, which was next to two other office doors.”) When I send things out for friends to read I often ask, “What can you see? What are you having trouble seeing?” That helps me know what I really need to flesh out more and what’s good. I also pay a lot of attention to how other authors do it.

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