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Writer’s Wednesday: Setting It Up


Writer’s Wednesday with Chase Ambler


johnnydeppSetting It Up

Take any short scene you have lying around and place it in three different settings that are drastically different. Notice how much setting plays a vital role in shaping any scene or story.

Take this short line:

“We’re going to die!” Marty yelled.

Just one line of dialogue can be altered immensely using setting.


Oracle 3 ricocheted off another asteroid, sending the ancient ship into an uncontrolled spin.

“We’re going to die!” Marty yelled.

His screams were drowned out by alarms blaring from every speaker in the dingy vessel. A tube burst to his right and soon the billowing green smoke blurred his vision. He could barely make out Threnor’s form slumped halfway out of the seat next to his.

“We’re going to die!” Marty yelled.

The four friends snickered as they huddled over their beers. Tombstones watched over them accompanied by the incessant chorus of crickets. The once elaborately carved headstone of Elisabeth Vernon (1826-1888) seemed to visibly sag in sorrow at the disrespect it was witnessing this night. The final resting place of Sterling Wellington (1872-1940) soaked up some of the spilled alcohol—the very vice that put the man in the ground those many years ago.

“We’re going to die!” Marty yelled. He lay on his back, pinned beneath the mast of the sinking boat. Offstage Loressa rolled her eyes at his melodramatic acting, but she still held fast to the rose he had left her. The flower had been sitting in front of the mirror she always used for makeup. Yet the more she thought about the dimly lit changing room the more likely it seemed to her that the gift was meant for Tanya who was off behind the curtains on the other side of the stage. The spotlights reflected off the former leading lady’s cast giving off a glow that Loressa interpreted as the physical manifestation of guilt. She pressed her nose into the flower and took a long, deep sniff as she eyed the intentionally ragged clothes barely covering Marty’s frame.


So there you have my version of the exercise done quickly and completely off the cuff.

You may be surprised at how moving away from the obvious/easy setting for your fiction can really take your writing in interesting directions.

For my novel, Snowsong, I had a vague idea for a few characters; one was a gifted classical composer whose music could basically transmit visions to listeners.  Originally the thought to set the novel in the 18h century crossed my mind, but then a short story from my college years lodged itself in my brain. Instead of setting the story in a time when classical music was at its height, I opted for a setting that was in a post-apocalyptic, corporate-ruled future. The juxtaposition of these two ideas, classic and futuristic (among other concepts), intrigued my friend, Sebastian Rydberg, so much that he wrote the novel with me (and we have two more books for the series planned).


Good luck! I hope this exercise sparks something interesting that you can run with!


Chase Ambelr - Headshot


Chase Ambler is an American writer who spent his childhood in South and Southeast Asia. His life has been shaped by strange obsessions: heavy metal music, mountains, travel, and soccer. These subjects have all molded his poetry and prose in some way, but the birth of his daughter may have the greatest impact yet. He lives with his wife, baby daughter, and dog in Colorado. If one went looking for Chase, they could find him anywhere from changing diapers to summiting 14,000 foot mountains, but odds are he’s in front of the computer working on his next novel. Visit the FB page for his Novel: Snowsong


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