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Insightful tips on writing the first novel. Step by step instructions and support.

Submitted: March 22, 2008

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Submitted: March 22, 2008




Angela T. Pisaturo

The environment of your main character is an important to the story as the characters themselves. Environment creates a character's world; their habits, mannerisms, culture.

In the Rich American Woman, Amelia's opinions about herself and her world were colored by her Italian American upbringing. In Treasures in Clay Vessels, Nellie Parker's world revolved around the happenings in the small New England town where she resided.

Creating a memorable setting gives your readers insight into the world of the main character. For example: In Treasures in Clay Vessels, Nellie's morning ritual begins with a walk along the main boulevard that is adorned with federal style architecture, a variety of shops and quaint cobblestone streets. She drinks in the sight of fishing trawlers that sail into the port and brings the reader into the 'sense of smell' world consisting of mixed with the smell of home baked scones coming from the local bakery. The reader is automatically drawn into her town, its charm, its colorful residents, and life in a small New England town as seen through the eyes of Nellie Parker.

In the Rich American Woman, the reader is drawn into Amelia's Italian family Christmas Eve celebration as she walks the reader through her family's traditions using all the senses: The sight of the magnificent Christmas display at Margaret's house; the aroma of Italian seafood delicacies cooking in the kitchen; the sound of her niece playing Christmas carols on the piano.

As you can see, setting can define a character. Vivid, descriptions of a place in the life of your character entices the reader to want to learn more about the character's background and culture.

Have you ever met a person that you found fascinating? Maybe it was their life experience or perhaps a place in which they lived. I often wondered what life was like for people in the third world. In the Rich American Woman I allowed Amelia DeLuca to experience the sights and sounds of India as I had on a past mission trip.

You may be asking how to accomplish such a monumental task. Well, relax its not as hard as you think. Below are some simple tips I find quite helpful in creating memorable settings.

1. Whenever you go to a place that makes your spirit soar write down those things that affected you. (i.e. the quaint little old world village, the people working at a task; the types of food you've tasted, the scent of the place (ocean, industrial)

2. When you get home take those notes and write short paragraphs about your experience using all the senses (sight, taste, hearing, touch)

3. Do research. Many travelogue sites on the internet give great descriptions as well as historic information. Find a way to incorporate the history into your setting.

4. If possible, visit the place you have chosen to be your character's world.

5. If visiting is impossible, interview people who have been there.

In Treasures in Clay Vessels, Nellie and Henry visit Jerusalem. I have never been there, however I have some friends who spent time in Israel. I prepared a list of questions before hand to ask them regarding their experience, and then during the interview, I asked them to elaborate on their experience using my questions as a guideline.

I knew Nellie and Henry would experience not only the tourist –historic places, but also the sacredness and everyday life of Jerusalem. That is where first hand experience can make a setting more realistic to the overall story.

Creating settings may seem overwhelming to you at this point, but remember Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your novel be built quickly. The most important thing to remember is not to be afraid to step out and take the risk – it doesn't have to be perfect on the first go around. In fact, it takes me at least four more revisions before I am satisfied. So keep working at it, you will be amazed how much you can accomplish.

God Bless

Angela T. Pisaturo

Check out more articles on the 'Write Life' at Ms. Pisaturo's first novel, The Rich American Woman can be purchased at the site or at

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