3 Steps to Write Story Setting into the Action

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“I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.” Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

See more about Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days at the end of the post.

We want our readers to picture the scene around them, but we don’t want to bore them with lengthy descriptions. Here are three easy steps to portray the setting in action.

Step 1

Have your point-of-view character take out her imaginary video camera and heft it to her eye. She must make sure the sound is on. 

Example: Marooned on an island, Reba takes out her video camera, which miraculously still works, and turns it on.

Step 2

Direct your character to slowly pivot around and look and listen for interesting or necessary things in her surroundings. You might even write a description of the scene’s setting.

Example: As Reba heads into the tropical forest she turns and looks back with her camera. She sees Paul, a fallen palm trunk, the beach with a white sand shore and rolling aqua waves. The waves crash and form a froth. As she enters the tropical forest her camera spots palms, yuccas, vines and other unidentified brush and trees. She exits the forest at a waterfall. Her camera picks up the fall’s crashing water that sends out sprays of cold water. She turns to the right and sees papaya and banana trees in clumps rising from a blanket of green grass. Bees buzz around them, and leaves flutter in the gentle breeze, making brushing sounds. To her left, Reba’s camera catches a wild thicket of tall grass.

Step 3

Now rewrite the description into the scene through the point-of view character’s actions and reactions, using the most interesting and necessary things the character saw in the camera. Take into consideration the scene’s pace as to how much camera sightings you include. Get creative.

Example:

Reba left Paul on the beach perched on a fallen palm trunk, aqua waves pounding the shore and turning into froth behind him. He fashioned a spearhead with shell shards and parts of coconuts. She turned to see if he’d follow her, but he didn’t look up. 

If only she knew the guy better. Didn’t he know they needed to learn whether the island was occupied? Apparently not. His lame spearhead was his macho reaction to first things to do. Self-protection. She plowed through hot white sand to the tropical forest beyond the beach, grumbling.

Reba pushed aside young palm tree’s leaves, circumvented yuccas, and ducked under drooping vines hanging from unidentified trees with massive roots. Rushing water became louder as she fought her way through the tropical jungle. Her heart beats quickened. Would a friendly tribe live in a village surrounding a waterfall? Or a mob of natives that had a craving for human flesh? 

She stepped through the last of the jungle. Water flooded over a cliff into a pool surrounded by exotic flowers. Awesome. Reba jogged to a wild orchard at the right of the fall. She snapped a banana from one tree and tugged a papaya loose from another. Wouldn’t Paul be surprised.

Whistling. Speak of the dev— Reba whipped around to the rustling tall thicket of grass opposite the orchard. A wild boar. Charging her. She froze. Paul leaped in front of her, and thrust his spear. The tusked black boar dropped to the ground. 

Hopefully, you picture the setting without paragraphs describing the scene.

What book do you think did a great job of giving the setting and why?

Buy Link

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor


Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

An Easy Way to Write a Book Cover Blurb

In James Scott Bell’s book Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing, I found the best method for me to create a book cover blurb or copy.

Bell says to write three sentences. In the first sentence we’re to give a character’s name, his vocation, and the story’s opening situation.

In the second sentence, Bell says we should open with “But when.” He says here we give the first turning point of the story often called the inciting incident. 

According to Bell, the third sentence should begin with “Now.” He says this sentence should reveal what he calls “death stakes,” something that happens that feels like death to the protagonist.

Here’s my attempt using Bell’s method at rewriting the cover blurb for the third book in my Twisty Creek Series, The Irresistible Woman in a Blue Dress.

Example: Original

Fashion model Vivian Day from Chicago suffers two problems. Her agent is her demanding mother, and she dislikes her career. After a taxing month and a photo shoot in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Vivian drives toward a friend’s empty house in Tennessee, hoping for a three-week rest.

Brayden Cole is a Lowe’s store manager in Wytheville, Virginia. On his way home to Twisty Creek, he comes upon a disabled car and a woman in a blue gown and flip-flops. He stops and offers the beautiful, frustrated woman help. Although he cares little for her uppity attitude, Brayden is not a man who abandons a stranded woman on a curvy mountain road.

How will these two opposites from such different cultures and lifestyles find a lasting relationship together?

Example: First Pass Using Bell’s Method

Overworked Chicago fashion model Vivian Day flees a difficult photo shoot in Roanoke, Virginia, and heads for a three-week vacation in Tennessee. But when Vivian detours into the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, her car breaks down on a remote mountain road, and home-improvement-store manager, Brayden Cole, struggling with grief for his deceased father, gives the beautiful, frustrated woman wearing a blue gown and flip-flops a ride and, while her car’s in the shop, a room at his mother’s house in Twisty Creek. Now, Brayden’s mother urges him to entertain the big-city woman, and as he reluctantly introduces Vivian to the simple mountain life, she realizes her stressful career and demanding agent, who’s also her mother, have drained joy from her life.

Analysis of the First Pass

The second and third sentences run-on. The “Now” doesn’t seem to be in the right place. I placed it too soon. And the last sentence says Vivian is already “dead.”

Bell says it’s okay to add a bit to the three sentences, so let me break up sentences and do some cutting and rewriting.

Example: Second Pass

Overworked Chicago fashion model Vivian Day flees a difficult photo shoot in Roanoke, Virginia, and heads for a three-week vacation in Tennessee. But when Vivian detours into the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, her car breaks down on a remote mountain road. Home-improvement-store manager Brayden Cole gives the frustrated woman wearing a blue gown and flip-flops a ride and, while her car’s in the shop, a room at his mother’s house in Twisty Creek. Brayden’s mother urges him to entertain the big-city woman. Now, as he reluctantly introduces Vivian to the simple mountain life, she realizes her stressful career and demanding agent, who is her mother, are draining joy from her life.

I invite you to critique the blurb to make it better and share one of your own.

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Buy Link

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor


Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

Writer’s Success: Not Goals—A Goal

“I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.” ~~ Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

See more about Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days at the end of the post.

Does it seem like much of what you do as a writer goes nowhere? The writing. The submissions. The marketing. The published books that sit on Amazon with three reviews and low sales. You wonder if your efforts, and your dream itself, are worth the work and pressure.

Your blah writing career may have less to do with all your efforts and more with what you put your efforts into. Maybe your efforts are too scattered to make any one project’s results—be it a writing or marketing project—stand out.

A Choice

Michael Hyatt says in his book, Platform, “You, too, have a choice in the projects and dreams you pursue. You can hold out for wow, or you can settle for something less.”

Have you defined your writing goal? One goal. Do you understand what you want so well that you can write your goal into a sentence? What if you did only the tasks that moved you toward accomplishing that goal?

Michael Hyatt says, “You start out with one thing in mind and then, without consciously intending to do so, end up in an entirely different location. It is the power of the drift.”

Can you keep your focus on that one well-defined goal and fight the “power of drift”? 

If you have many writing related projects going, choosing one goal may seem like asking you to build only a castle instead of a kingdom. But compare the castle to the huts you’ve put in progress.

Wouldn’t you like to experience success in a great castle? Save other goals for after you’ve reached success in the current goal. But for now, focus on that one goal.

Creating a Castle

Michael Hyatts says, “Creating a wow experience begins with making a commitment. … It’s easy to ‘settle.’ … Stand for greatness. … Remind yourself what is at stake. … Ask ‘Why is this so important?'”

Table Projects and Limit Efforts

Once you’ve answered why your one goal is so important, ask what are you doing that doesn’t contribute toward your wow goal. 

Suppose your goal is to be an author in the top [number] Amazon author ranking in suspense novels. But you love car racing. You’ve written a book on the history of car racing. You have a weekly blog and speaking engagements with groups of race car fans. You also speak with reader groups and belong to Facebook suspense-books groups. You know the efforts of neither project contributes significantly to the other. If you put your creativity and efforts into one or the other, you’d have a castle instead of two huts.

Move projects that don’t contribute to your writing goal to the future or to another life area, such as fun and relaxation. Limit efforts that are time gobblers or don’t produce much return toward your goal. For example, move daily blog posts to weekly or monthly posts. Focus most speaking engagements to places you’ll reach readers. But don’t schedule so many that you’re not writing more of your wow books. 

James Scott Bell says in Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing, “Since the most important marketing tool is the quality of your books, becoming the best writer you can be is job #1. This is where the majority of your time should be spent. … Productivity as a writer is also a marketing tool. The more you write, with quality, the more you grow a “long tail” that has renewed life with each new book.”

What is your goal for your writing career?


Buy Link

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor


Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/