Settings that feel like Characters are what the literary agents are looking for. So says J Lenni Dorner in his introduction to this short book, aimed at authors. The good news is: readers feel your settings more acutely if they are well-rounded, too. I’ve been planning to read this book for a while, and as the IWSG was reading it for their bookclub this month, I decided to join in.

Preparing to Write Settings that Feel Like Characters

by J Lenni Dorner

This reference guide is a tool to help you organize your thoughts and ideas to obtain the goal of making a setting that feels like a character. This valuable reference guide is useful in revealing a simplified way to create settings that feel like characters by using an organized sketch sheet. This practical approach will help focus your writing. The challenge of making a setting into a character is easily conquered with this informative guide. Make your story more interesting in today’s competitive fiction market by giving your writing this edge.

The Setting Character Sketch (to copy and use with the book) is on the blog of J Lenni Dorner. [goodreads]

My review

I was intrigued with the idea of treating a setting like a character. I wondered how to do it. This useful guide outlines a worksheet (you can see it here) and then takes you through all the various opportunities you have to populate it, showing that a boring old place has its own unique style and presence.

As I read, I constantly thought of my Viridian System series, checking that I had considered or included elements of Dorner’s ideas. I don’t think I’ve done too badly, but I’d class my attempts as world-building. I wonder what the difference is? Maybe the thought that the setting gives something to your characters; you need to consider their interaction. It’s not just that the person is influenced by his or her surroundings, (s)he may be the product of them also. So what is it about the setting that makes that happen? How does it show in what the person does, how they react to the surroundings?

As I read I drifted off into my own worlds, checking–yes, that applies, I think I do that. No, maybe that doesn’t apply–but should it?

As with character bibles, Dorner suggests a character sheet for each setting you have. Even if they are all on Earth, 2021, the differences in their history of settlement, climate and customs will make them different from each other.

So, as with other writing aids, this is one to dip into, over and over, because there is always something else to spark your ideas and add a nuance to your plot. Dead flowers around the house, for example.

Preparing to Write Settings that Feel Like Characters: 'there is always something else to spark your ideas and add a nuance to your plot. Dead flowers, anyone?' @JLenniDorner #amwriting #worldbuilding @jemima_pett Share on X

Book Review | Preparing to Write Settings that Feel Like Characters @JLenniDorner
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