Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Writerly Wisdom: Quotes on Setting

One reason I read books is because I dread ever so much to travel. I do like the “here I am” of arriving. It’s all that packing, squishing into miniscule airline seats, fretting about schedules, realizing I brought the entirely wrong things to wear, that make traveling drearisome. I do like the exploring, discovering, reveling that is part of going somewhere new. This is a big reason why I read novels. Reading, especially fiction, takes me places that doesn’t involve packing a bag. This month’s Writerly Wisdom set of quotes focuses on that aspect of writing involving place: setting. How does a writer put me in the “there” of their writing?

“The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies.”
Neil Gaiman, American Gods

“An author knows his landscape best; he can stand around, smell the wind, get a feel for his place.”
Tony Hillerman

Eudora Welty said, “Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else… Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, What happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming?…”

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” –Anton Chekov

How important is setting for you when reading? Is it more important than visualizing the character? What memorable settings have you discovered in reading–which authors are able to transport you to that place in the writing?

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3 thoughts on “Writerly Wisdom: Quotes on Setting

  1. I think I hardly ever both with how characters look when I read, it is all about the setting, the feeling and the awesomeness of being there. There are plenty of amazing places I have been to, whether Narnia, middle Earth or Dickensian London or Tolstoy’s St Petersburg, in fact even landing Halley’s Comet which Arthur C Clarke wrote about and had me smiling for the rest of the night.

  2. Setting should be a character in the story. Otherwise, it tends to feel too vanilla. I LOVE Gaiman’s quote. It’s hilarious.

  3. I like what Jilanne said there about setting being a character. One of my favourite/most helpful for me quotes about writing is the one about description which says – “description is an opinion, find a place to stand”. It totally applies to setting, bring opinion into describing the setting and it brings it to life.

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