The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces

Tomorrow, June 13th, Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman are expanding their indispensable Thesaurus family by adding The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Natural and Personal Places and The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces.

“We are very excited about these books, and hope they’ll change how you think about setting and description. Sensory detail, a large part of each book, is an especially powerful way to draw readers into our story’s world, so we really need to get it right.”

For Angela’s taster visit: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2016/06/launch-mock-post/

However, here is my review of The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces.

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As a writer, one of my most referred to books is The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, so I was excited to find the Thesaurus family had new additions. I was not disappointed when I delved into The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces.

The Thesaurus is well laid out, with three parts, starting with some insightful and useful sections that explain why setting is so important, and how writers can enhance their creations by using it well. Setting is too often the poor relation of characterization and plot, but, as Ackerman and Puglisi demonstrate, it can lift your writing.

As they say, “We are very excited about these books, and hope they’ll change how you think about setting and description. Sensory detail, a large part of each book, is an especially powerful way to draw readers into our story’s world, so we really need to get it right.”

These eight sections include: The Setting as a Vehicle for Characterization; The Setting as a Vehicle for Delivering Backstory; The Crown Jewel of Settings: Sensory Details; and Common Setting Snags. These were informative, and made me aware of all the opportunities that I was missing in my own writing.

The main body of the Thesaurus contains a collection of over 100 diverse settings arranged under helpful headings: IN THE CITY; RESTAURANTS; RETAIL STORES; SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT AND ART VENUES; and TRANSPORTATION. There is plenty of options to choose from when finding the most suitable location – for instance I choice the settings ALLEY, BAR, RACETRACK, and POLICE CAR as the starting points for my exploration, and just these locations led down a multitude of avenues.

Each setting contains a wealth of suggestions on the SIGHTS, inside and outside, although you definitely don’t need every one. These are just great prompts and reminders. Then you get the same on SOUNDS, SMELLS, TASTES, TEXTURES AND SENSATIONS.  The suggestions don’t stop there. There are POSSIBLE SOURCES OF CONFLICT, PEOPLE COMMONLY FOUND HERE, SETTING NOTES AND TIPS, and another thought-provoking paragraph that demonstrates techniques – the SETTING DESCRIPTION EXAMPLE for each setting.

For me, these EXAMPLEs demonstrated what was possible and the techniques available to a writer. Full marks to the authors for their well-crafter slices of fiction, that demonstrate what is possible with Settings.

Perhaps the feature that got me dashing along other avenues most, was the RELATED SETTINGS THAT MAY TIE IN WITH THIS ONE. This lists those other settings, and in the eBook links to them. So POLICE CAR took me to the Police station. Prison, Courtroom etcetera. It was hard to stop exploring this Urban world. If that’s not enough, there are even related settings in The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Natural and Personal Places, so the two books work in tandem.

The final part of the book contains tools to aid you in applying all these gems, as well as a list of all the Rural Settings, Recommended Reading, and more information on the first class team behind the Thesaurus family.

After this wordy exploration of the invaluable Urban Setting Thesaurus, I’m off to buy The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Natural and Personal Places as its sister thesaurus is a tempting taster of what to expect. Both have to be an essential part of any fiction writer’s library. They will be part of mine.

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7 thoughts on “The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces

  1. What a very thorough and thoughtful review, Roland! I am very glad you found the related setting especially helpful. Our hope is having this linked in this way will encourage writers to think beyond the first setting that comes to mind. Maybe the writer thinks the Police Station is the right setting for a scene, but then they follow the rabbit trail and decide, no, the Police Car would be better. Choosing that right setting is the pin that holds everything together, so we always want to think carefully about the “where.”

    Really appreciate the review! I hope you find the RT just as helpful 🙂

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  2. Thanks so much for the heartfelt review, Roland. I’m glad to know there were parts of the books that got the old juices flowing :).

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    • Now find that I keep thinking about setting in a more active light, even if it creates problems when I can’t find the right one. Today I’ve been trying to find a suitable place of worship, but I have a good starting point. Many thanks.

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  3. I’ve seen this book reviewed around and it seems very well done.
    I do think many writers don’t take all the advantages the setting can give. As much as many readers enjoy ‘been taken there’, writers seem strangely resiliant to ‘go there’ in the first place 😉

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