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There's nothing more tiresome, either at the outset of a novel or thrust into the middle of one, than a lengthy description. So the sky was blue and the clouds a billowy white and a sheepdog lolled in the middle of the dusty lane. Get on with it, already. This is not to say that setting is not of utmost consideration to a fiction writer (or to any other writer). Jack Bickham applies the tip-of-the-iceberg theory to setting: "You should have a rich lode of factual information on hand before you begin to write," he advises here, "and should know how to sprinkle in those facts a few at a time." In Setting, from the Writer's Digest Elements of Fiction Writing series, Bickham explores the ways in which the setting one chooses affects the other elements of the story. "In real life as well as in fiction," Bickham warns, setting "tends to form character." The setting you opt for will determine what else you may and may not include in your story. Bickham has advice on how to communicate your setting to your readers, how to research a given setting, and how setting varies according to genre. He includes a "setting research form" that would be a nifty thing to take along when you're on the road. And remember, he says: "you must never deviate from verifiable facts." Even if the southern town you've chosen is completely imagined, you must never let the crape myrtles bloom before late summer. --Jane Steinberg [via]