What does an introvert party-goer know about writing scenes? A lot it seems.


First of all, just like our party goer, don’t arrive too early in your scene (or your whole book for that matter). Arrive as late as you can at the party – ie just before the candles are lit, the speeches are made, all the important stuff happens. Same with scenes/stories/books. Don’t make the reader wade through a whole lot of unnecessary small talk/backstory. Instead cut right to the chase. Enter the scene just when the really big thing is about to happen. In fancy terms this is called In Media Res -or as I like to call it – CUT TO THE CHASE. Get rid of any unnecessary lead up and get us to the most important moment, that inciting incident or plot twist or heart-clutching moment as soon as you can. 


Much as the introvert needs to survey the party’s landscape to find a route to the host, the writer needs to ground the reader in where the scene is taking place and show us who our host is for the scene. Who is the Point of View Character? Make it clear early whose perspective we’re in. The easiest way to choose your POV character is by choosing the character who has most to lose. Make sure the reader knows whose side we’re on and get that introvert over to the host so their presence is registered.


Now introverts aren’t exactly known for being the life of the party, but getting out on the dancefloor makes your presence very visible and everyone will remember you being at the party. When writing our scene/story, we want some ACTION, no just hanging around the backstory or hiding out in the kitchen/interior monologue. Instead move straight into some action. Dialogue is action. Your characters interacting is action. Movement towards plot goals or against them is action. Leet your reader know you’ve arrived at the party.


Yes, that’s the ultimate introvert party goer trick. You’ve turned up, found the host, made sure everyone knew you were there by dancing, then, as soon as the candles are blown out, you’re off! Same with your scene/story. Once you’ve hit the climax or key turning point in your scene, don’t wear out your welcome by overanalysing the action or rambling on about the deeper meaning for paragraphs. Just leave. Readers are intelligent folk. Let them figure out what it all means themselves. So writers, hit your climax, then get out of there fast! Move on to the next scene and apply the same rules.

Early on in my writing career I was lucky enough to win a mentorship with esteemed editor Judith Lukin-Amundsen who has worked with Kate Grenville and Tim Winton. The first task she assigned me was to go through the whole manuscript and cut at least 10%. Then she made me go through and examine each paragraph and cut the first and last sentences! I tried to be good and do exactly as she said and mostly it made those paragraphs sing, but sometimes I kept my darlings, the precious ones. So, as with any advice, follow your own gut instincts. Try out the advice, see if it works for you and if it does, then BINGO! If it doesn’t, fiddle around with it and adapt it to suit your purposes.

So party goers and writers all, try out this method for parties, and writing, and see how you go. Let me know! Did it work for you?

Keep smiling fellow writers. The world is still a beautiful place and stories are valuable and important. Your voice is valuable and important.

Lots of love,

Edwina xx

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SETTING – more than just the scenery! 

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I’ll admit I haven’t always found writing setting easy. As I wrote my books I could see scenes playing out clearly in my head and thought the reader would somehow also see it the way I did by osmosis or some other magical device, because I wasn’t giving them much in the way of setting detail. These days I’ve come to realise just how important setting is, and the load it carries, not only in establishing our story worlds and grounding the reader in that world, but also the essential role setting plays in developing the tone of a piece of writing and in illustrating emotional undercurrents. 

Writers of fantasy, sci-fi, magic realism and historical fiction take note – worlds that are not easily imagined by a modern audience demand that the writer spend more time and page space on developing their story setting. This story world needs to be placed in time and space with key sensory physical and cultural details described so the reader is able to visualise where the story action is taking place and is familiarised with the mores and ethical laws of this new world. 

For example, a sci-fi novel set on a planet controlled by women where there are three moons but no sun, with trees as tall as skyscrapers and all dwellings are within the trunks of those trees, needs much more description than a story set in a modern shopping mall. A fantasy medieval world with modern gender sensibilities also needs greater description – not only of the physical but also of the societal aspects of the world. We need to give the reader enough clues about the story world, and demonstrate consistency in this world, both physically and culturally, so that they can relax and not have to strain over imagining where the action is taking place. When we are writing a piece based on a modern, familiar setting we don’t need to fill in as much detail, but we still need to use a few telling clues to establish where and when we are. See GROUNDING YOUR READER for more.


Artwork by Karla Dickens, photo by me.

One of my favourite writers, Karen Joy Fowler, author of Booth and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, once shared with me her tips for writing, and using these specific unexpected sensory details was one of the best. When we write prose rather than screenplays, we have the advantage of being able to use all of our senses, while screenwriting is confined to only what we can see and hear. So USE ALL FIVE SENSES in your writing. Show us the shapes and colours and give us the sounds but also include smells, and taste if you can, and the visceral experience of the body. The key is to make these details interesting. Choose the unexpected

For example, if you’re describing a teenage boy’s bedroom, we expect to see piles of dirty sports clothes, and some band posters on the wall, but we don’t expect to see a frog halfway through dissection and a collection of taxidermy projects lining the shelves. The cave dweller who had a crooked little finger that showed up every time she did a handprint is instantly recognisable through this one unexpected detail. Use the power of the unexpected in your setting descriptions!

Setting is not just the house or room or forest or sea or ship or castle or dungeon, it also includes what I call the “props” – furniture, decorations, contents of fridges or bags or other items in that setting. By choosing what you want the reader to focus on through your description of these specific unexpected details you can illustrate their personalities before they even appear on the scene. 


Describe a character through the contents of either their pockets, handbag or fridge. What clues can you give us about this character by what you choose to show us?

Artwork by Paul Yore, photo by me 🙂


The poet T. S. Eliot famously wrote about using objects to illustrate character emotions instead of baldly stating the feeling. For example. Instead of saying: Pam was totally frazzled, we could show Pam packing an overnight bag in a rush, but forgetting to close it properly so when she goes to leave everything falls onto the floor. Think of that old song “My Grandfather’s Clock” – the clock stops short, never to go again, when the old man dies. 


  • Use an object to illustrate emotion in your story.

Setting details can also reveal emotional undercurrents to a story and set the tone of the whole piece. Shakespeare often uses the weather to illustrate the emotional turmoil of his dramas. Storms and droughts and wild winds or gentle rain can all play a part in establishing the emotional setting of a scene. 


  • Add drama to a scene of conflict through using weather details – a blazing sun hammering down, a torrential downpour about to wash the hut away?

In a similar way, setting details used well in dialogue, can completely change the meaning behind the spoken words. There’s a big difference between “What time is it?” Rosie squints and slowly lifts her head from the pillow. And “What time is it?” Rosie hurls the cold saucepan full of soup at Bob’s head. 

Remember the key to good setting is the use of SPECIFIC UNEXPECTED TELLING DETAILS.

Have you got any tips for writing setting? Do let me know in the comments!

Lots of love

Edwina xx