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Camp Care Package #3: Setting and Dialogue

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Author Lisa Stringfellow is your Camp Counselor this week. Find all Camp Care Packages in Breaking News throughout the month of July, or learn more about Camp NaNoWriMo!

1) Setting, or avoiding the "white box":

In fiction, setting can be an under-utilized tool. It should be as important as the characters, and you can use it to engage your reader, reveal characterization, and much more. How does your character interact with the world around them? How does the setting interact with the characters? What are the emotions evoked in your character by the space? Make sure to think about these questions to bring both your characters and their surroundings to life.

2) Dialogue:

Dialogue can serve many purposes. It should always move the plot forward, but can also convey voice, reveal characterization, establish motivation, and create conflict. Used inexpertly, it can slow the pacing and feel repetitive. Shape your dialogue with judicious use of dialogue tags (phrases that establish who the speaker is in a scene). You don’t always need them, especially when it is clear who is speaking through what is being said. Instead, add in moments of exposition to paint a picture that includes action and reaction between the spoken words.

Writing Dare: Pick a scene and highlight sensory details related to setting in a different color for each of the five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound). What is present and what is missing? Try to add at least one detail that is new. Is emotion reflected in your setting? How might the mood of the scene or feelings of the protagonist be expressed in what they see, hear, touch, smell, or taste?

author photo

Lisa Stringfellow writes middle grade fiction and has a not-so-secret fondness for fantasy with a dark twist. Her debut fantasy A Comb of Wishes was published on February 8, 2022 by HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books and was named an ABA Indie Introduce and an Indie Next Kids’ title. The book has received starred reviews and is included on 2022 summer reading lists by The Horn Book and the TODAY show’s Read With Jenna Jr. Lisa’s work often reflects her West Indian and Black southern heritage. She is a middle school teacher and lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with her children and two bossy cats..

What's up at Camp?

  • Camp NaNoWriMo Virtual Write-InWednesday, July 20, 10:00 AM PDT (Your Time Zone) Make progress on your Camp NaNoWriMo project! During this hour-long livestream, we'll share a few writing prompts to help you brainstorm ideas, and you can chat with other Camp NaNo writers.
  • LGBTQIA+ Writers Zoom Meetup — Thursday, July 21, 2:00 PM PDT (Your Time Zone) Writers in the LGBTQIA+ community or who are actively questioning or discovering their own LGBTQIA+ identity are invited to join us for a virtual Zoom meetup! We'll chat, share advice, and write together. 

  • Writers of Color Zoom Meetup — Friday, July 22, 4:00 PM PDT (Your Time Zone) Writers of color in the NaNoWriMo community are invited to join us for a virtual Zoom meetup! We'll get to know each other in breakout rooms, share what's inspiring us, and talk about the writing life.

  • Try something new this Camp — focus on world-building! The world of your story can determine what kinds of challenges your characters face, and can reveal so much about the things you want to explore with your writing. Check out our World-building page for more how-to resources!
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