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Guest blogger: Sandy Barker

21 June 2020

Writing setting

As a travel romance author, setting is critical to my stories and I have had some wonderful feedback from readers around the world about how well I evoke setting―both from people who have been to those locations and those who long to go.

So, what is my ‘secret sauce’ for writing setting?

First, I only write about places I have been to―many of which I have lived in or visited for extended stays or many times. This means I can draw on my own experiences of those locations to recreate them for my readers. When I am about to write a particular place, I go back to my photo catalogue, social media posts, blog posts (I have blogged about travel for 12 years), and travel journals. I also do extensive online searches―mostly of images―to mentally immerse myself in the location. I will do this as I write too, to ensure I continue to create true sense of place.

Second, I delve into all the senses. Sight is the most obvious way to describe setting, and it is a great starting point. I focus on shapes (organic shapes or sharp angles, or something in between?), textures, colours (differentiate between different shades), spacing (is the place crowded or deserted?), architectural styles, and even the number and types of people my character sees in the setting, because how those people engage with their environment also evokes setting.

I also write the smells and scents of a location, as our memory, smell, and emotions are intricately linked and this can be a great ‘shorthand’ for readers. For example, the smell of frangipanis is a powerful reminder of summer, or a holiday somewhere in the tropics.

The other senses―touch, hearing and taste―are also a fantastic way to round out a setting for the reader. Is the sand on the beach powdery or course? Is the sun warm on the skin, or the wind chilling? What can the characters hear―the sound of traffic, or a light breeze rustling the palm trees above, a waterfall, or children playing? Taste is a little trickier, but I do write characters who love to eat, so their meals become part of their overall experience of each location.

By combining all the senses, setting almost becomes another character in my books. This allows my readers to travel vicariously―to really feel like they are travelling alongside the characters. So, next time you feel like you’re really there as you read, consider how the author has employed the senses to conjure the setting.

You can find Sandy here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Sunset in Sydney

How far would you go in the name of love?

Sarah Parsons has a choice ahead of her. After the trip of a lifetime she’s somehow returned home with TWO handsome men wanting to whisk her away into the sunset.

Pulled in two directions across the globe, it’s making life trickier than it sounds. Her gorgeous American Josh, wants to meet Sarah in Hawaii for a holiday to remember. Meanwhile silver fox James plans to wine and dine her in London.

It’s a lot to handle for this Aussie girl, who had totally sworn off men!

Join Sarah after her adventure in One Summer in Santorini, for the heart-warming and uplifting third book in The Holiday Romance trilogy.

A Sunset in Sydney is due out 3 July.

One Comment
  1. 22 June 2020 11:36 am

    Can’t wait to read this new one Sandy. It’s very obvious you are intimately acquainted with the places you visit, they spring off the page! That Night in Paris took me back to when I was 19 on my first trip there. And I LOVE Sydney!

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