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  • Writer's pictureKelli A. Wilkins

Have you always wanted to write? Get Started Today!

Hi everyone!

Have you always wanted to write?

Do you have a great story idea, but don’t know how to develop it?

Are you looking for an extra boost of motivation to get started?

Then I have the book for you!

Today I’m sharing a look at the making of my writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction.

You Can Write—Really! is an easy guide designed for beginner writers who need a boost of motivation and simple instructions on how to get started.

As an author of more than 100 short stories and 20 romance novels, I’m often asked: "Where do you get your ideas? How do I get published? How do you write a book? What advice do you have for writers who are just starting out? Do you have any writing tips?"

I’ve answered these questions many times in interviews and addressed them in guest blogs, but I always wanted to say more. One day, I started thinking about everything I’ve learned over the years, and inspiration hit me: Why not write a book on how to write? The result? You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction.

This fun and practical book walks you through the story-creating process step-by-step: from getting a great idea to meeting your characters, developing a plot, and on to writing, revising, and submitting your work.

Each easy-to-read chapter is based on my experiences as a writer, advice I’ve received over the years, and practical knowledge I’ve gained in writing classes and workshops. I also included helpful tips all writers can use, plus easy writing exercises to get you motivated.

Once you have the basics down, you can write—really! Here’s the book blurb along with an exclusive excerpt from Chapter 7 - Setting, Details & Research. Enjoy!


You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction

If you’ve always dreamed of writing and getting published, but have no idea where or how to start—THIS is the book for you!

You Can Write—Really! is an easy guide designed for beginner writers who need a boost of motivation and simple instructions on how to get started.

Award-winning author Kelli A. Wilkins takes you step-by-step through the writing process, covering the basics of plotting, editing, revising, and submitting. In addition, she explores ways to get your creativity flowing, explains where authors get ideas, and shows you how to create interesting characters for your story.

Helpful tips and fun writing exercises throughout the book get you started!


Setting and details are two necessary elements for your short story or novel. They give readers a firm idea of when and where the characters are.

Take a second and look around. Where are you reading this? In your living room? A park? While walking on a treadmill? Wherever you are is your setting, and your story’s setting needs to be as realistic as the one you see around you. How do you do that? Through realistic sensory details and a little bit of research.

Setting is when and where your short story or novel takes place. It can be a historical setting (ancient Egypt), contemporary (present day Florida), futuristic (Earth Colony Vega in space year 2513), or anywhere you can imagine. But no matter when (or where) a story takes place, readers have to be comfortable in the setting and “buy into” the fact that the story is set wherever it is. In short, you need to make the setting so real the reader forgets he or she isn’t in a Medieval Scottish castle.

And if your historical romance takes place in a castle, describe the castle to the reader through your hero’s and heroine’s points-of-view. Each character will notice (or not notice) different things. The hero has lived in this castle for years, so he’s used to it. He’s not going to notice the portraits on the walls or want to investigate a closed-off wing.

However, to your heroine (who has never been there before) everything is new and a bit overwhelming. She can’t wait to explore and naturally gets lost, is awestruck at the grand hall, and becomes curious about a locked tower room. As you write each scene, show readers what each character is seeing, smelling, hearing, etc. so they can imagine they’re in the castle, too.

EXERCISE 1: If you already have your story idea, you probably have a setting. If not, ask yourself: Where does the story take place? When? Why is it set there? For what reason? You need to know the answers to these questions because the setting is the backdrop of the story; it’s where the characters live. Write down everything you know about the setting and start dreaming up the locations you will need.

The setting you choose for your short story or novel adds to the overall mood of the piece. If you are writing a mystery, perhaps the setting is a gloomy, secluded mansion. A moonlit graveyard is a fantastic location for a horror story, and a contemporary romance is perfectly at home set in a California beach town.

Settings can be broad (Small Town, USA) or specific (room 13 of a haunted hotel). If you are writing a short story, you could limit the setting to one place or have the action occur in several locations, it’s up to you. Novels are generally set in a number of different locales as the characters move through the story and take readers along for an adventure.

TIP: Look at magazines and photos online to get descriptions and ideas for your settings. If you find an unusual piece of furniture, a fancy dress, or a cool castle you could use in a story, save it for ideas and inspiration.

The clothing your characters wear helps establish setting. If the hero is wearing a ruffled shirt and breeches, readers will know he is not in contemporary times (or he has time traveled). A long-haired guru is wearing a Nehru jacket, denim bellbottoms, and six strings of beads? Welcome to 1968.

Weather can be an important setting element. A rainy, gray day can reflect a character’s depressed mood. Kids will be running out the door to play on a sunny summer afternoon. See if the weather could be used as a source of conflict. An earthquake, flood, or tornado causes trouble for your characters, or maybe the witch in your paranormal story can conjure storms with her mind.

No matter how simple or exotic the setting is, make your characters at home there. Describe it so readers know exactly what’s in the room and where the story is taking place. How do you do that? Through details.

Think back over your day today. What did you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Touch? Those are your five senses at work, giving you impressions of everything around you. When writing, you need to engage these senses in the reader and in your characters. If LouAnn smells roses, the reader should smell roses. If your cop hears the screech of tires and a blaring horn, readers need to hear it, too.

Try to incorporate each of the senses into every scene. They will add another dimension of reality to the story. Yes, it’s hard to add “taste” to your scene if your character isn’t eating anything, but another character could notice his breath smells like tuna, peppermint, or garlic.

Colors, smells, taste, the weather, food, (or anything) can be used to make a character or a setting stand out.

Here are a few examples: The living room smelled like a combination of wet dog and rose-scented perfume. Steve licked his lips, savoring the zingy taste of strawberries. Only Aunt Patty would wear a hot-pink polka-dot dress with lime green shoes.

Color helps set the mood or tone of a story and can be used to reveal more about the characters. A pastel pink bedroom with white furniture and lace curtains probably belongs to a young girl (or a very romantic heroine). A basement room painted red with black velvet curtains could be home to a vampire or the neighborhood Satanist. A brown and orange living room with an avocado shag rug tells me your story is set in the 1970s. Readers don’t want a bland story, so add some color and life to the character’s world.

EXERCISE 2: Write a three to five paragraph description using some of these prompts: Location: bathroom, office, bar, car, park Sight: a dead mouse, trees, a lost child, a torn letter, broken bottle Smell: vanilla perfume, urine, candy, cigarettes, mold Hearing: crying, yelling, traffic noises, music, whispering Touch: rough, soft, wet, sharp, hard Taste: sour, sweet, minty, bitter, coppery

Keep in mind you’re not limited to the physical senses when it comes to adding details. Don’t forget about the calendar and the clock. What time of day does your opening scene take place? What season is it? Work the season and time of day into the story through dialogue, details, or background.

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