Active Settings 101

Writing Active Setting Book 1: Characterization and Sensory Detail
By Mary Buckham
Cantwell Publishing, 59 pp., $3.99

USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham’s Writing Active Setting is one of her non-fiction books on the craft of writing. With thirteen published fiction novels she enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with others.

This three-part short writing guide provides a wealth of information, examples, and assignments. She teaches like a mentor, meaning she explains and then demonstrates a practical application. The bibliography includes 17 works of fiction and recalls the Donald Maass book Writing the Breakout Novel. Most authors are also active readers so pulling examples from works you’ve read, or at a minimum authors you’re familiar with, further illuminates her points.

Ms. Buckham’s strongest chapter discusses character reveals through the setting. She offers concrete examples ranging from genetic, to slightly improved, and then to the final published work. She shows how each character may view the setting differently and how those unique, layered point-of-view descriptions inform the reader about a main character, especially when the character isn’t self-aware.

Sensory detail via setting was weaker as too many sense images overwhelm and become data dumps whereas too few leave the reader to their own imagination. Here, Ms. Buckham, walked a challenging line between encouraging more information from the author without underserving the reader. The published examples in this section are helpful, but further highlight the struggle to balance this approach.

Writing Active Setting Book 1: Characterization and Sensory Detail is a helpful, quick read which can enhance your writing by better developing your created world.

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