I like writing fantasy. Yet one of the hardest things I’ve discovered while learning to write better is that I’ve seriously neglected my description skills, the very skills I must have to write fantasy, or any genre for that matter. I wanted to get to the good stuff while I wrote my drafts, and that left critical components of my setting behind. Now vagueness plagues my writing with unfortunate regularity, and that has to stop. I need to develop a setting that not only draws my reader into the story and keeps them there, but does more than just be a one-dimensional, lifeless back-drop.
The Writing Active Setting series by Mary Buckham shows me how to do exactly that on multiple levels.
Mary Buckham teaches her writing readers that Active Setting (yes, it’s so important that it’s in capitals) “means using your Setting details to work harder and smarter,” particularly working “harder and smarter” to reveal character, show emotion, create conflict, give back story, and much more (3).
What’s really great about this book is Mary Buckham’s attention to teaching these components of Setting. Buckham not only provides examples and assignments to practice like most good books on writing, but also gives examples of what not to do. I find this to be really beneficial, because it allows me to remember what to watch out for in my own writing so that I don’t make the same mistakes twice.
That being said, like all good writing books, you can’t read this book without doing the assignments or taking some kind of notes. Writers transform through practice and dedication to the craft.
My recommendation is to read series twice: the first time for the gist of what setting can do, and the second time taking careful notes and spending at least a week per chapter going over the assignments and concepts. Reading it once through while taking notes and doing the assignments is fine, too, if you’re like that. But most importantly, treat it like a writing course. Don’t just read the book and be done with it forever. Take it slowly so that you can receive the full and awesome benefits of an Active Setting that helps your story come to life.
I highly recommend this to writers of all kinds that struggle with Setting, beginning through advanced. Setting is a component of every story that cannot be overlooked, and with Buckham’s series, Active Setting will become an invaluable tool for your writing, as it has for many other authors.
NOTE: This paperback edition is a print version of the Writing Active Setting series box set for the Amazon Kindle.