Thursday, 19 September 2019

Book Review: Writing Vivid Settings

Review by Jeanette O'Hagan


Title: Writing Vivid Settings: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors (Writer's Craft Book 10)

Author: Rayne Hall


 "Do you want your readers to feel like they're really there—in the place where the story happens?

Whether you want to enrich stark prose with atmospheric detail, add vibrancy to a dull piece or curb waffling descriptions, this guide can help. Learn how to make your settings intense, realistic, and intriguing.

This is the tenth book in Rayne Hall's acclaimed Writer's Craft series."

Available as Kindle, Print, Audiotape.
Published December 27th 2014 by Rayne Hall
You can find it here.


Rayne Hall writes fantasy and horror fiction, some of it quirky, most of it dark. She has also written a number of best selling books on writing craft, including  Writing Fight Scenes, The Word-Loss Diet, Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novel, Twitter for Writers, Writing Deep Point of View etc.

After living in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, a small Victorian seaside town in southern England, and she now lives in Bulgaria. Rayne holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Over three decades, she has worked in the publishing industry as a trainee, investigative journalist, feature writer, magazine editor, production editor, page designer, concept editor for non-fiction book series, anthology editor, editorial consultant and more.

Contact Rayne Hall on Twitter
@RayneHall follows back writers and readers.

Jeanette's Comments

This is another gem from Rayne Hall and ranks along aside my all-time favourite of hers, The Word Loss Diet.

In Writing Vivid Settings, Hall breaks down different ways of including the setting into scene without bogging down the pace or producing long slabs of description that the reader duly skips. She looks at ways on including smells, sounds, light, colour, weather, telling details, similes, symbols and discusses the use of effective word choices. She explores how to research and to include the setting through the senses of the point-of-view character.

Hall then applies all these techniques to the challenges of writing specific scenes - such as the opening scene, climaxes, action scenes, at night, etc. with plenty of examples. She also demonstrates many of the techniques in a flash fiction at the end of the book.

As with her other books in the For Writers series, Hall gives many examples, tips on things to avoid and exercises to follow at the end of each chapter. She suggests building up a Setting Description Bank by journalling actual places you visit on a regular basis.

Modern fiction is often sparse of description and modern readers often skip lengthy paragraphs of heavy with description. Still, giving a sense of place through judicious description will make a more immersive and engaging novel. For fantasy and historical genres, setting is particularly important.  However, these techniques can apply for fiction of all kinds as well as creative non-fiction.

While not a particular fan of her dark fantasy, I can highly recommend Rayne Hall's Writing Vivid Settings.

Jeanette spun tales in the world of Nardva since the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. Many involve courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic. Others are set in Nardva’s future and include space stations, plasma rifles, bio-tech, and/or cyborgs. 

The last four years have been a whirlwind, with the publication of her Under the Mountain series (Heart of the Mountain, Blood Crystal, Stone of the Sea and Shadow Crystals, Caverns of the Deep) and her debut novel, Akrad's Children (in the Akrad's Legacy series),  as well as short stories and poems in over twenty anthologies. 

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

You can find her on various social media, including here:


  1. Thanks Jenny for this review. As a serial 'skipper' when reading lengthy descriptions in books, I'm all for slipping information into prose in a way that's organic yet non-intrusive.

    1. Hi Mazzy, I love great descriptions & am not keen on 'white space' where the story could be happening anywhere (and nowhere) but agree it's best to make the part of the fabric of the story.

  2. Sounds good. I love settings and writing them. Creating atmospheres. I"m currently reading Story Genius (Lisa Cron) - more to do with characters but I'm enjoying it. Thanks Jenny and Mazzy, I enjoyed reading this.

    1. Thanks Jeanette. I loved your descriptions in Lantern Light - I really felt I was there in New Ireland along with the characters.

  3. Thanks Jenny! I appreciate that. You actually create your worlds! Wow!

  4. This is one of several Rayne Hall titles on my to-read pile. And I agree - The Word Loss Diet is excellent!