Maximize psychological undertones and overtones in your writing to make a more powerful story!

Words are magic. Powerful magic. Often imbued with symbolic meaning—overtones, undertones, nuance, subtext, connotation, and feelings—deep within our collective consciousness. Meanings we respond to on a visceral level.

If an author writes, “the blood-red velvet drapes concealed the dirt-encrusted window,” the words blood, velvet, concealed, and dirt-encrusted convey more than just descriptive detail.

  • Blood  has a myriad of connotations.
  • Velvet suggests luxury, and/or wealth.
  • The word conceal implies something all together different than if the word covered had been used.
  • Dirt-encrusted may imply a multiple meanings; slovenliness, or how the author or characters view the world.

The short description is a clue, one providing thematic, foreshadowing, context, plot, and characterization beyond the superficial.

Does this mean you have to write that way? Of course not!

Does that mean  you  have to read that way? Aw, heck no. 


TIP: Never get hung up the “this means that” school of thought. The magic of writing is the way the writer creates an image or feeling.


So  first up! The magic of setting!

It’s more than location.

Setting is a powerful tool for creating themes, mood, tone, conflict, and social commentary.  Setting may influence, shape, and emphasize a character’s actions and ideas.

Setting can be:

  • political ~ actually a lot of writing contains politics, especially  those with themes of injustice, prejudice, and war 
  • time frame ( minutes, hours, days, years, centuries )
  • historical ~ my pet peeve is an author who disregards  the historical mores of  the time
  • socio-economic ~  wealthy, poor, middle class. ( Billion romance is BIG right now.)
  • cultural ~  agents/editors are always on the lookout for works by under-represented authors telling stories about marginalized peoples
  • religious 
  • dystopian/utopian
  • magical
  • mythical
  • surreal
  • constructed/ alternate /parallel/imaginary
  • dream ( think Inception)
  • virtual ( think Tron )
  • psychological
  • attitudinal
  • industrial
  • seasonal


Setting may refer to:

  • a physical place
  • temperature
  • weather
  • geography
  • landscape/topography

Can all  these  different  types of settings be symbolic? They can, if you want them to be. Or need them to  be.

How  many  settings does  your novel  have? How important is it to your  story, its  conflicts, and your  characters’s  needs?

 Dragon Lady has political, socio-economic, historical, cultural, physical, and geographical settings. Her  greatest  enemies and conflicts stem from the political milieu, poverty, cultural expectations, and the weather. These  settings are as important as the characters and are integral to the story of her triumph.


Next  week   on  Symbolism  Magic ~ North, East, South, and West



Note: I’ve taught literary analysis for over 15 years. And nobody died of boredom….yet.  I’ve also read and written my fair share of analytical papers  about stuff that would bore the pants off anyone who wasn’t a literary professor.