Janet Lee Carey-Dreamwalks DreamWalks Janet Lee Carey Award-winning author of novels for children and young adults

Finding Your Sense of Place

Dreamwalks Book Review

Finding Your Sense of Place (The Writing Life Series) by Janni Lee Simner
Description from Amazon:
Use setting and description to bring your characters to life and increase the emotional impact of your stories! Setting is about much more than providing a few scene-setting details and moving on. Discover why the descriptions that seem to get in the way of your stories are actually the most powerful tools you have to bring characters to life and make readers care about their stories.

Two decades ago, acclaimed novelist Janni Lee Simner took her writing to the next level and began selling her work when she realized that emotion and description are, ultimately, the same thing. In Finding Your Sense of Place she shares insights and techniques to help you:

• Understand why different characters see the same places differently—even if they walk side by side
• Craft descriptions that help readers connect with your characters on a deeper level
• Make room for descriptive passages that won’t bog your story down
• Select the most powerful scene-enhancing metaphors

My Review: This Book is Found Treasure
Have you ever had your critique group say, “More description! More emotion?” Years ago novelist Janni Lee Simner did, and it stumped her. How, she wondered, could you add paragraphs of setting description and character emotion without spoiling the story pace? I’ve run into the same problem as I’ve labored to find the right balance in my novels. Luckily Simner continued to grapple with the challenge until she had an epiphany. Description and character emotion are the same thing. Consider these descriptions:
“Racing along the dark cliff, he broke through cold rain, the cutting shards tearing at his skin.”
“Soft fingers of rain cooled her face as she raced along the dark cliff, the welcome water soaking her shirt.”
Both describe a night run through the rain, yet each character experiences the storm in a completely different way according to his or her personality and mood.

Simner shows how to choose the best metaphors and descriptive details to move your story forward. And she highlights many examples from fiction to bring the point home, giving writers a simple, elegant tool to approach the problem of place and character emotion. Here’s an example of her epiphany at work in her stunning YA novel Thief Eyes.


~ The path led to a pond with an interpretive sign. I stopped to read it, stretching my calves and watching the raindrops ripple the water’s surface. The sign explained that in the Middle Ages, women convicted of things like lying and adultery had been drowned here. Nice ~

These lines describing Haley’s jog along the gravel path in Iceland show both setting, and character emotion as Haley quests to find her missing mother in a foreign land.

I loved reading Finding Your Sense of Place along with the bonus essay at the end detailing Simner’s in-depth setting research on her journey through Iceland for Thief Eyes. These forty pages could change your writing life. I know they’ll change mine.
my rating:

More books by Janni Lee Simner here

Until next time Dreamwalkers, walk well

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