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Setting: How to Create and Sustain a Sharp Sense of Time and Place in Your Fiction (Elements of Fiction Writing) Hardcover – February 15, 1994


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Amazon.com Review

There's nothing more tiresome, either at the outset of a novel or thrust into the middle of one, than a lengthy description. So the sky was blue and the clouds a billowy white and a sheepdog lolled in the middle of the dusty lane. Get on with it, already. This is not to say that setting is not of utmost consideration to a fiction writer (or to any other writer). Jack Bickham applies the tip-of-the-iceberg theory to setting: "You should have a rich lode of factual information on hand before you begin to write," he advises here, "and should know how to sprinkle in those facts a few at a time." In Setting, from the Writer's Digest Elements of Fiction Writing series, Bickham explores the ways in which the setting one chooses affects the other elements of the story. "In real life as well as in fiction," Bickham warns, setting "tends to form character." The setting you opt for will determine what else you may and may not include in your story. Bickham has advice on how to communicate your setting to your readers, how to research a given setting, and how setting varies according to genre. He includes a "setting research form" that would be a nifty thing to take along when you're on the road. And remember, he says: "you must never deviate from verifiable facts." Even if the southern town you've chosen is completely imagined, you must never let the crape myrtles bloom before late summer. --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Over the course of his esteemed career, Jack Bickham published more than 80 novels and instructional books, including Writing Novels That Sell and The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them). A former creative writing professor, he instructed thousands of writers through his classes, seminars and Writer's Digest magazine articles. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Elements of Fiction Writing
  • Hardcover: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Writers Digest Books; 1st edition (February 15, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898796350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898796353
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #834,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 83 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I've read all the books in the Elements of Fiction Writing series and this is how I'd rank them.
"Scene & Structure" "Characters & Viewpoint" "Beginnings, Middles & Ends"
The above three books are invaluable -- must reads. They are the best of the series, in my opinion, and are packed with good information on every page. Well-done.
"Conflict, Action & Suspense" "Description" "Plot" "Manuscript Submission" "Setting"
The above five books are good, solid reads. Again, they contain good information and cover the subject decently.
"Voice & Style" "Dialogue"
To me, the last two books need to be rewritten. They are by far the weakest of the series. Both suffer from an annoying style, particularly Dialogue, and both are very skimpy on real information. Neither one is very helpful.
This is the order in which I'd recommend reading them.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By poetree on July 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Another Writer's Digest book that offers a multitude of ways ensure that your reader has a visual and sensual focus on place and time in your stories. The author not only tells you why setting is so important in supporting the plot and characters, but gives pleanty of exercises to help you create a clear picture of where and when your story takes place.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By BookBuff9293 on June 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
As one version of the cover claims, this book is designed to help new writers "create and sustain a sharp sense of time and place in [their] fiction." Jack M. Bickham, a writer himself before his death, teaches you how to both develop your setting and incorporate it into your story. He insists that setting is a vital element of any fiction piece, because it is not only your story's backdrop, but a dynamic aspect that affects plot, character, mood, style, point of view, and more. Having made this point, he offers advice on conveying sensual detail, using vivid language, conducting research, developing an eye for detail in our real-world setting, and more.

What I like about Bickham's approach is his adherence to resource book formatting, meaning he writes simply, stays on track, and both orders and organizes his chapters well. Though he may reiterate some points on the grounds that they're "worth repeating," each chapter has a different focus that offers new insight. He integrates examples from his own work, as well as suggested exercises and self-evaluations, into the text, making it more interactive and illustrative. In addition, he bolds phrases starting paragraphs in chapters that require a more systematic approach to the topic at hand, in order to highlight a shift in focus and make referencing easy. He also uses subtitles to divide chapters, and develops many numbered questions and bulleted points in various chapters so no digging through blocks of text is required during referencing. All this formatting on Bickham's part combine to make this a great book to keep by your side when putting his advice to use.

I only wish that Bickham had been more comprehensive in his "Setting and Style" chapter.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James Duckett VINE VOICE on October 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
Who knew there was so much to setting? This is a difficult read from cover to cover (as I trudged through it), but it is a good book to keep around as a reference. Not excellent, but good. This isn't so much a "how-to" on writing setting but more of a "why setting is important".

At the beginning of the book the author (Jack M. Bickham) explains that not enough detail is given to setting in writing classes and offers this book as a means to fill that gap. However, Bickham touches on most aspects of writing from the perspective of setting. So, is your plot weak? Look at it from your setting.

I would recommend that you read the first chapter or two and then keep the other chapters in mind if you feel you are stuck in a story and believe that an adjustment to setting could bring your story back to life.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By David Stacey on March 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a "mature" student I was in awe of the insights the author was giving us which he has obviously learned on the anvil of experience. As an avid reader I was able to relate to his comments and advice and found myself nodding in agreement. This book is easy to read and full of practical advice, and examples, just the book for budding writers.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By B. Abernethy on March 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Another excellent effort by Jack Bickham. Unfortunately his last book as he died afterwards.

Many nuggets of information that are indespensible for the writer. Here are a few:

When writing multi viewpoints you may want to introduce each viewpoint with a bit of setting to re-acquant the reader. For example. When Brenda, who just finished that horrible exam in History, left the classroom. . . .

Setting can set the mood. ie The dark clocktower with its crumbling facade rang yet again signifying Joe's soon demise. . . .

Setting should be brief and never stop the movement of a story.

Setting can provide a metaphor to underlie your story's theme.

How important it is for the setting to be factual.

When setting can be made up.

I could go on, but you should see the point. This is an excellent reference that will push your writing from hack to salable.
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