How To Deal With WHITE ROOM SYNDROME

One quick revision note. There are still some scenes in here that could use a little bit more grounding detail so that the reader can see Emily and her friends/relatives interact with the world and setting.

So what is this again? This white room syndrome?

According to inventingrealityeditingservice.com:

Rather than fully imagine such a world, some writers instead create a quick, unformed facsimile of their own. For example, they start the story with the line, “She awoke in a white room.” The white room is the white piece of paper facing the author. This is known as white room syndrome, a term coined a few year ago at the Turkey City Workshop in Austin (a group that has included authors William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Lewis Shiner, Rudy Rucker and Walter Jon Williams).

They officially define white room syndrome as “an authorial imagination inadequate to the situation at end, most common at the beginning of a story.” In short, because the world wasn’t fully imagined, it can’t support the story that unfolds from it.

Or as Lauren Mullen says:

The scene is coming together just as planned. Your dialogue is snappy, witty, and poignant. The action is electric, carrying your characters from one spot to the next. You can see it all unfolding to you as if it were happening on a screen…but the setting details are absent. As a result, all your character’s amazing dialogue and action happen in a blank space.

But what I really like that she says is here:

Think of when you go over to someone’s house for the first time, how they decorate and treat their home says a lot about them. Are they the type of person who cleans up when expecting guests or not? Do they keep a lot of books? Collect art? Fan memorabilia? Are there any pets? What are they? A dog owner says something different about a person than a hamster owner. You learn a lot about a person by how they decorate and treat their home, likewise this is why description and setting are so vital to good storytelling. 

When done properly, the world in which your characters inhabit can take on a life of their own. It is important to spend as much time fleshing out your setting as you would a persona. This helps the space in which your characters exist feel grounded and real. 

So, how do you keep it from happening? Or how do you fix it?

There are some good ways!

  1. First make the decision about how you want the reader to feel about the space where the scene is happening.
  2. Add details that make that happen. Is it a crowded space? A quiet café? A darkly lit jazz club? Are the tables sticky? Does the office smell like onions? Do you hear the fast clickety-clack of coworkers keyboards? Do smells come from another cubicle? From the coffee shop’s kitchen?
  3. Think about how you learn about people from the first time you walk into their homes? Give that feeling to the reader. Is it well lit? Shadowy? Are the salt and pepper shakers shaped like manatees or plastic? That sort of thing.
  4. Allow yourself to set the scene as a stage where the details you choose reflect the emotional struggle of the character and/or the plot.
  5. Use the five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) and try to use three of them in each scene. Oh! And don’t have the three you use be the same for every single scene.
  6. Don’t overdo those senses, but do use them a bit.

Why is this important again?

It’s important because:

  1. It keeps your characters from just being talking heads.
  2. Setting is a tool that you can use to create ambience, tone, reality.
  3. Readers like to know where the characters are.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

Email us at carriejonesbooks@gmail.com


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 263,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

  1. It allows your reader to be fully in the experience of the character of the book.
  2. It’s a tool. The setting can be a metaphor for your character’s internal struggle. If your character is having an anxiety attack and stuck in her job and life, making her hide in a bathroom stall is perfect as metaphor.
  3. It can be a character in your story. The city of Chicago or New Orleans can influence the plot and character a lot. The city can grow too as the character grows.
  4. It helps create tone and conflict. If you’re writing a novel about an apocalypse, the details you choose in your scene’s setting help show that.
  5. It shows class and divisions in society, too.

The Five Senses of Farts, Dangerous Croissant Animals, and Random Writing Tips About Settings

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
The Five Senses of Farts, Dangerous Croissant Animals, and Random Writing Tips About Settings
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The smell of a really bad fart at a sleepover. The sound of giggles after someone has been dutch ovened at that same sleepover. The touch of a Dorito on your tongue. The sight of Godzilla’s leg outside your window.

The five senses are so important in your story. Those details yank readers into the narrative. They associate it with their own really bad farts, giggles, processed cheese tastes and um–Godzilla moments–and have an emotional reaction and recognition.

That’s what you, the writer, want. You want your story to feel real. Incorporating the senses lets you do that.

Spoiler alert: A story doesn’t feel real if it isn’t fleshed out with sensory details.

Here are the five senses in case you forgot:

  1. Sight (eyes)
  2. Nose (smell)
  3. Taste (tongue)
  4. Touch (skin, hair)
  5. Hearing (ears)

Here are examples of sensory language:

  • His fart brought tears to her eyes. “Refried beans again, really?” (sense of smell)
  • He stuck the entire lemon half into his mouth, puckered and sucked. “This helps with the smell,” he said. (sense of taste)
  • His fart boomed beneath the covers and ended in a slow hiss. (sense of sound)
  • The silk of the sheets against her nose was not enough to keep the smell at bay. Damn it. (sense of touch)
  • The scaly leg took up the entire window. All she could see where reptilian scales, half oval, greenish, like big pieces of armor. (sense of sight)

Writing Tip of The Pod

A story without the senses is a story that’s dull, not real, and all in your head. You want to make it sexy. Sexy is the senses.

Dog Tip for Life

Live with all your senses. Explore the world through them. It’s all good. Smell the smells. Taste the smells. See the smells. Feel the smells. Hear the smells.

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link.

best positive podcast - Be brave friday
Send your Be Brave Friday stories to us here! Just hit the contact form or message us at carriejonesbooks@gmail.com
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loving the strange the podcast about embracing the weird

Random Thoughts

This week we talked about women’s rights, COVID vaccines and also weird news. The link to the news is here. And the story about the deadly croissant animal is here. Stay weird everyone!

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

Email us at carriejonesbooks@gmail.com


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 263,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Let’s Talk About Setting

Setting is where your story happens. It’s the time period. It’s the physical place. You can have more than one setting.

There. That’s the definition. We’re all good, right?

Wrong.

Let’s really talk about setting.

What Setting Does

Setting is the foundation of your story. It is the ModPodge that has an addictive smell (Cough. Not addicted to ModPodge. Look away.) and glues all the story together.

What Happens Without Setting

Your characters float around in nothingness.

Your plot makes no sense. You can’t have hamsters taking over the world if there is no world.

You have no theme. You can’t care about the kindness of strangers if there is no reason for the strangers to need to be kind.

You have no atmosphere. Atmosphere is sexy. It’s the feeling of the story. The ambience.

How Do You Make Setting?

Go in slow. Don’t overwhelm us with details about the Hamster World of Ham-Ham-Ster and its 87 leaders of the Teddy Bear Nation. Establish it. Move on and sprinkle in important details as you go. Be sparing. Only add to overall story.

Figure out what pieces of the setting matter the most. Is it the claustrophobic trees? The swarms of tourists disembarking cruiseships. The smell of blood coming from the old, wooden floorboards? Use those details. Not the kind of coffee your heroine puts in her Keurig.

Make it active. The setting matters as the characters see it, move through it, react to it. Whatever is weird about that place and how your characters interact with it? Focus on that.

Don’t be afraid to go places, to use Google maps, the internet. Do everything you can to get fully into that place.

WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

Don’t Make Your Setting A Stereotype; Writing Tip Wednesday

A lot of people love where they live or where they visit, but that doesn’t mean that they can write well about that place or include that town/city/cruiseship in an authentic way in the setting of their story.

I’ll use where I live as an example.

Tons of people claim that their piece of the earth is the most beautiful, and those of us who live here on Mount Desert Island are no exception, tiny mountains lift up the center of the island creating granite vistas in deep pine woods. The coast is full of dramatic cliffs where the sides plunge into the cold, gray Atlantic Ocean.

It’s so beautiful that a million people travel all the way up the coast of Maine to visit it this summer. If you google image Bar Harbor or Acadia National Park you’ll see photo after photo of distance shots of the town or photo after photo of Sand Beach and these two mountains called the Bubbles.

The same distant landscape shots appear over and over again. But when you live here, that’s not the town, that’s not the setting. It isn’t something felt or viewed at a distance. It’s up close. It’s details. It isn’t a static image but a movie full of depth and emotion and change.

And I can tell right away when someone writes about here but they’ve either:

  1. Never visited
  2. Never talked to anyone local
  3. Spent a mere day

They’ll have the locals pronounce the town, “Bah-hah-bah.” They’ll stick in a ‘telling detail’ about the tiny town square or the carriage roads of Acadia. They’ll use a last name like “Higgins.” They will present a one-dimensional portrait of a small town that’s always beautiful.

But MDI  isn’t always beautiful, no place is, not to everyone. When we’re writing about place and including setting in a story, it’s good to remember that no matter how beautiful a place is – that’s not all there is to it. Or that your one moment there, doesn’t mean you get the whole of it, understand the big picture and nuance of the place.

Just like a character needs to have multiple dimensions, so does the setting of the story.

Mount Desert Island is a place where people write stories of fantasy and of survival, where people come to hike and bike the carriage roads and then decide to stay, choosing to live with the lobsters and deer and wild turkeys.  The main industry here is tourism and then there are two scientific laboratories, a small college, a wee hospital, and boat building places. People still lobster. People still fight fires and get arrested and work at one of the tiny grocery stores. It’s a place where churches have game night, breweries have trivia night, and there seems to be one nonprofit agency for every five year-round residents.

Every winter a lot of the town vanishes. Shops and restaurants close. Snowbirds fly south. Restaurant workers go to Florida to make money before returning again in May.

It becomes an entirely different place than it was just six months earlier when it was brimming with tourists, crowding the sidewalks, bickering over where to eat, hauling bags of t-shirts around. A century ago, Bar Harbor was the town of the Rockefellers and Pulitzers, the elite white people of the United States. A century before that, it had Wabanaki camps along the bay.

Place, like people, has dimension. Place has a past beyond our present. To be the best writers and people that we can be, it’s good to remember that, to breathe in the nuance and the dimension.

*all photos by me.

Writing and Other News

I’ll be hanging out at Virginia Beach this weekend for an awesome book festival.

Art.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

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Time Stoppers!

You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them here or anywhere.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

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Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Writing Barn

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

Apply Now!

 

Make Your Setting Kick Butt

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of writing where setting is just… Well, it’s missing.

You begin a chapter and there are just these talking heads and you’re not quite sure where they actually are.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

 

And the reader is like, “Cool. They have Coke. They are upset. But where are they? Are they floating in the ether? Are they in Newark? I just don’t know.”

So the first rule of creating a kick butt setting for chapters or scenes in your book is:

Actually have a setting.

I know! I know! This seems obvious.

It is not obvious.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John had in his dorm room.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Make the Setting Somewhere Cool if you can

A lot of stories have scenes around a dining room table.

There are places in the world that aren’t dining room tables. It’s okay to have a domestic scene in a bathroom, a bedroom, a basement. It’s okay to make the dining room cool. It’s okay to make the dining room a couch.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Think about Theme and Mood

If your book is about misery make your settings reflect that. If your book is about displacement, do that, too.

 

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper. It was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Remember Detail

Depth and intricacy aren’t swear words. The Belles, a newish YA novel does such a fantastic job of having setting become part of and enhance the story. J.K. Rowling? Same thing. Give yourself a moment to really breathe and live in the place that your characters are breathing and living in.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper. It was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said, shutting the door. There were stickers all over it, declaring, “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” or “FREE TIBET,” or “HEGEMONY NOW.” Some of the stickers were peeling off at the edges, like they were trying to escape the actual refrigerator door, but they couldn’t. They were stuck.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

 

Study Old Books

The Charles Dickens’ and Brontes of this world were masters at making you live inside the settings. Don’t copy them, but pull out one of those old books where time was spent creating the stage. Roots was a book that always felt real to me. Color Purple, too. The Bluest Eye.

Find a book where you feel like you live in the place and study a paragraph or two and try to determine how the authors make you see that world.

 

Use Your Senses and Your Symbols

Setting isn’t just visual. It’s smell. It’s the feel of the air on your skin. It’s a million things all combined. The symbols and objects that create your place also reflect the story. Think how Twilight was rainy and dark, foreboding with its trees as opposed to Bella’s original sunny south.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper and shut it fast. Broccoli smelled rolled into the air, sickening and heavy.

The mini fridge was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said, shutting the door. There were stickers all over it, declaring, “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” or “FREE TIBET,” or “HEGEMONY NOW.” Some of the stickers were peeling off at the edges, like they were trying to escape the actual refrigerator door, but they couldn’t. They were stuck.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.” I popped the top of the Coke. The click and fizz of it satisfied me more than this conversation ever could.

“Seriously.” John swallowed hard.

I met his eyes.

He looked away and slammed the door of the MINI shut before leaning across the top of it, hiding his head in his arms.

The rotten broccoli smell somehow got worse. Gagging, I took a swig of the Coke, forcing it down.

Now, go back up and read the first pretend excerpt again. It’s a totally different story, isn’t it? It’s weird because I’m weird, but it’s better.

My Post-40WRITING NEWS

I’ll be at Book Expo America on June 1 at the Lerner booth from 11:30-12.

There’s a free information and inspiration session from  Write! Submit! Support!, a six-month intensive program through the Writing Barn.

It’s a one-day only thing just to hang out and learn about the program. I swear! No weirdness involved at all. More info is here.

TIME STOPPERS THE MIDDLE GRADE SERIES OF AWESOME

Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.

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Time Stoppers Book Two! Out in paperback this August! 

Dogs Are Smarter Than People

And finally, the podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.