Judge Training 104 — Score Sheet – Setting

Judge Training 104



Is there a good sense of time and place?
Details are necessary and enhance the story


QUESTION: Setting = Description, right? So if there’s lots of description, then the author gets a 5.

ANSWER: Not exactly.

If the description doesn’t impact the character, it won’t impact the reader.


Setting is more than just describing the landscape or type and color of the furniture.

If a man walks into a room and notices the paisley print curtains, he better be an interior designer or those curtains better look just like the set at his mother’s house. It’s not “in-character” for the Average Joe to notice curtains. The same goes for a heroine standing on her porch and describing her surroundings that she sees every day. The author needs a reason for the heroine to be thinking about her surroundings.

It might be that one of the characters is very familiar and comfortable with their corner of the world. The other might be observing not only the new locale, but also the way another character moves through it.

               Is there a good sense of time and place?

In EVER AFTER, it was easy to obtain a sense of time and place since it was a movie. But the opening scenes also set a tone. It built a world.

Setting is the tone of the characters’ surroundings. Observations about the actual way things look vs. the way things make a character feel. One or two words throughout a character’s thoughts can set the tone of your book and give you an excellent backdrop.

time of day — long shadows, blinding sun, pitch black, bright and early,

God awful early

PLACE — chilling, dark, dry, hot, stark, void

NEW SCENERY — new observations, something’s different in the familiar setting

COMFORTABLE SCENERY — nothing ever changes, consistency

EMOTION — how the setting affects the characters



    TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT by Sharon Mignerey

Silhouette Intimate Moments #1098 August 2001 (pg. 9)

The air was chilly, and she rubbed her hands up and down her arms to banish the goose bumps. A hundred yards away the inlet glistened beneath a bright canopy of stars flung across the sky. She inhaled deeply, loving the scent of the rain-washed air. This simple pleasure was one of the reasons she had come to Kantrovich Island in the Alaskan inside passage just over three years ago. In the solitude she had found herself again and had regained a sense of purpose in her life.

To her surprise the dog didn’t step off the porch to do his usual middle-of-the-night thing, but stood next to her, his head cocked to one side, his nostrils twitching. The last traces of sleepiness left Rosie. This was Sly in his working stance. Someone was out there.

               Details are necessary and enhance the story

In EVER AFTER, the opening with Danielle has her waking near the fire, reading a very worn copy of UTOPIA, the book her father gave her. The director is giving us a clue into Danielle’s personality. They could have begun the story with Henry on his horse, but they included the setting of the sheets hanging from the window. Those pictures said much more than the many complaints we here from Henry later about his life and if Danielle’s father had lived to discuss the book with her…would she have different ideas about a Utopian society?  Would the premise of the book mean the same if her father had lived? By the book being in Danielle’s hand, we know immediately how much importance her father’s last gift played while she grew up without him.

As always, if you have questions relating specifically to an entry, contact  GEcoordinator@ntrwa.org.

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Most of the opinions on judging and interpreting the questions’ intent are my own words. I’ve been in the business over 15 years and have spoken to many authors, gathering information. A lot of the time when a question is asked, I go to authors who publish in that genre for advice. Please use your own expertise and experience, but keep our humble interpretations in mind.

~Thanks, Angi Morgan


Contributions and edits by Fenley Grant