How I Beat My Struggle with Settings

I keep two files of art. Well, I keep more than two, but two specifically related to my novels: Characters and Settings. (Each project also has it’s own specific folder of inspiration.) My Settings file is particularly useful, because I struggle.

I could write dialogue all day. In fact, that’s almost always how I start — with two people talking. Sometimes where they are while they talk is necessitated by the story, but often the exact location is not; it just has to be somewhere that makes sense. And when it comes time to think of someplace interesting to put them, and to describe it, I get frustrated.

Enter my Settings file. It doesn’t always help, but often it does, although often only indirectly. For example, today I was perusing images and I came across the picture with all the cages below, and my mind immediately went to “pet store,” even though that’s not really what’s depicted. I further refined that to exotic pet store, which actually really works for a variety of plot-based reasons.

And from there, things just took off. For example, I immediately pictured emperor scorpions and a large anaconda named Larry in a glass case — so-named because of Leisure Suit Larry, the old adult computer game — and so on.

I started collecting images randomly about two years ago, and there’s close to 300 unused pictures and photos in the file (and growing). I say unused because each project I start has it’s own file of art and inspiration. There’s no organization. It’s just all thrown together. I even have a couple files for projects I haven’t started but am contemplating for the future. And my “rule” is — barring exceptional circumstances — each image is only attached to one project.

Here are some random additions to the collection: