When we debut authors finally see our books in print, on the shelves, and in readers' hands, we find out important things about our stories. They no longer belong to us. They belong to our readers.
Now that I’m into editing the third novel in my series, I have become quite careful about giving my readers what they have stated that they loved the most about my books. It helps me determine what content I should cut out and what type of content I should give more of, and most importantly what I need to do to keep them wanting more books.
Today on The Thrill Begins, multi-award winning suspense author Lynn Emery shares how the reaction from her first novel changed the direction of how she wrote. Her quick discovery and acknowledgment that her readers had tapped into something important about her books, something that neither she nor her publisher had realized, made her a success once she adjusted her stories to satisfy her readers.
Setting as Character for my Books
by Lynn Emery
My first book, Night Magic, was published in 1995. The book grew out of a writing exercise we did at my local RWA chapter meeting. The topic was description. The objective was to write a scene showing a character arriving or leaving somewhere. Our assignment was to bring the setting alive. We were to set the mood by describing the surroundings and the character’s reaction to that setting. I wrote a short scene showing Karen, my main character returning to her small hometown. I described her driving past Louisiana bayous and the lush green growth of the countryside.
After the book was published more than a few readers wrote to me and mentioned Louisiana as though my home state was a major secondary character. As a new writer I realized they were right. From then on I made sure that Louisiana became a leading character in the next eleven books I sold. It paid off.
Here are a few things to consider if you plan to make setting a character in your next novel:
- A distinctive setting becomes a character when the culture, landscape and even climate contribute to the story so strongly. In other words, the reader becomes just as interested in the setting as the people and the plot within it.
- A setting can be a culture, sub-culture, or a profession. It’s not just limited to geography.
- Bring your setting alive so much so that your readers experience it as a living thing. Take the exercise I had to do in RWA. Describe where you are as if it was a person or a pet.
- Use settings to deepen the characterization of the story people. When we think of character development the region where the main character lives helps to shape the way that person thinks, the choices that person makes, their dialogue, and the way they react.
Lynn is the author of fifteen romantic suspense and mystery novels. A native of Louisiana, most of her books are set in her home state. NIGHT MAGIC was recognized for Excellence in Romance Fiction by Romantic Times Magazine. Her novel AFTER ALL was adapted for a television movie by Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 2000. Lynn has been nominated several times for awards, and in 2006 won three Emma Awards for Kiss Lonely Goodbye as part of the Romance Slam Jam conference. Her latest novels is BETWEEN DUSK and DAWN. For more information visit www.lynnemery.com