Tag Archives: fantasy writing setting techniques

Talespin Tuesday: Exercise #5 – What’s in a Room

Here’s the drill:

20 minutes. Fresh, free fiction (of the imaginative variety), based on a few preset parameters.

Every Tuesday, I’ll spin you a quick tale and give you something to think about. Call it a writing drill, an exercise in imagination. I spend nearly a year to get a book together, so what better than an opportunity to have something finished by the time I click “save”. Now I like that, and hopefully, so will you.


Setting the scene is a vital part of  any narrative sequence. An author who does this well creates a clear picture for the reader of where the action is taking place, without the need to interrupt with descriptors. You don’t build as you go, or else you might put a stair where the chimney was at the start. You also don’t want to get too carried away by giving away too much.

My exercise, whenever I determine the setting of a certain scene, is to sketch it out. I go way overboard. The reason for this is so that when I actually write the scene, I see it clearly and will tell the reader what’s important. There’s no need to fill in extra details to convince myself I know what’s there, and no headache afterward when I cut details out and feel like I’m destroying information.

Scenes are easy to describe. And fun, lots of fun. So why not do that today? I’ll demonstrate how my process works, behind the scenes, by describing a room that will start out as plain and boring, but end as nothing of the sort.


One enters through a door with an arched lintel, the floor a shining wonder of blue and white marble. Three windows look out onto a courtyard below, the one with the broken fountain, the lilac bushes, and the stream. There is a trapdoor, in front of the small fireplace, on the far wall, usually hidden by the lion-skin rug. It leads down into a cellar that is part of a passage out to the riverside. An oaken table fills the alcove adjacent to the hearth, while three china cabinets line the wall opposite the windows, filled with precious figurines from the Glimmering Isles, painted puzzles from the Wild Wood, and the long black deathhook art of the Northern Dwarfs. A longer table fills most of the room’s length, this one stained dark, its curled legs gilded. Situated just below a chandelier, its ornate chairs are often filled with men and women who are just as gaudy; this is, after all, the Hall of Merchants, where the Trade Council meets its visiting representative. Long, rectangular picture frames hang along the wall, a tight-fitting row depicting previous High Guild Mistresses and their various Slave Men in chains. The room is splendorous at midnight, when the Council convenes, just after Last Bell, for a thousand candles burn, flickering in the crystal streamers above; the air is cool and humid, the best hour in the land of Ever Summer.


Want to read more by Graeme? Check out The Pact, the first story in an epic fantasy series, now available for KoboKindle, and other ebook formats.

You can follow Graeme on Twitter (@GraemeBrownWpg), and if you like learning about a unique word each day, come check out his new blog, Graemeophones


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Filed under Graeme Brown Setting Sketches, Graeme's World