Master Writer: Poe and Sound Effects

Poe Pic

(I drew this Poe head.
And I’m pretty darn proud of it too!)

I just finished teaching a unit featuring several works by Edgar Allan Poe.  If there’s anyone who teaches out there, you’ll know that teaching something forces you to not just learn the material, but become an expert.  Especially when you’re teaching something… times five classes.  And especially when you have 110 little heads asking you questions.

But as a writer, I’ve also found that teaching what are often great works of literature offers me amazing insight on the craft of writing.  At author events, people always ask for advice on becoming a writer.  And very often authors answer that you need to read a lot.  I think I’d go a step further.  Reading a lot is great.  But reflecting on and analyzing what you read is just as important to the growing process as a writer.  I think this is why so many writers benefit from a good MFA program–because it forces writers to use these analysis skills with their reading.

Anyhow, this post is intended to share one of the lessons I learned from Edgar Allan Poe.  A pretty cool one, I think.

Lesson from a Master Writer: Using consonance to create sound effects that mimic the action in your narrative.
Instructor: Mr. Poe
Required Text: “The Raven”

For this lesson, please read the following two stanzas from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”:

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
“‘Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

-Stanzas 3-4, “The Raven”

Using these two stanzas, we are going to look at how Poe used consonance to create sound effects that mimic the noises in the narrative.

First, what is consonance?  Consonance is the purposeful repetition of a consonant sound.  (Assonance is the purposeful repetition of a vowel sound.)

In the first stanza above (stanza 3 in “The Raven”), the consonant sound “s” is repeated in the first line, “the silken, sad, uncertain rustling.”  What sound do you make when you want a person to be quiet?  When you want silence?  Shhhhh.  The “s” sound is a soft sound as well as one associated with silence.  And what is Poe describing using this soft “s” sound?  The movement of curtains.  Now say that line again.  Go on.  Say it out loud.  “The silken, sad, uncertain rustling…”  The very sound of that line mimics the soft sound of rustling curtains.

Absolute brilliance.  Let’s look at another.

In the next stanza (stanza 4 in “The Raven”), the consonant sound “p” is repeated in the lines:

But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,

Especially when contrasted with the soft “s” sound of the previous stanza, the “p” sound is sharp and surprising.  Think of the word POP!  Or make the “p” sound with your lips.  It’s a quick burst of noise.  This “p” sound is again being used as a kind of sound effect for the narrative.  These two lines are describing the knocking sound at the door.  The quick, sudden burst of noise that has startled the narrator from slumber.  When I read this line, every time I get to a “p” sound, I feel as if I’m hearing that persistent rapping at the door.  The “p” sound even forms a sort of rhythm that one might use when knocking on someone’s door.

So while “The Raven” is known for its lyrical rhyme and rhythm, I’d venture to say that Poe was one of Horror’s first sound effect artists.  Poe knew how sounds affected a person’s psyche, and so he tried to imitate sounds with the words he chose.

POE = GENIUS

Thanks for attending my little lesson on Poe.
I’d love if you left a comment to tell me your thoughts on Poe, “The Raven,” or the lesson post in general!
Is this kind of post something you’d like to see more of on Hughes Reviews?

Writing: Troubleshooting, Backstory, Romance?

Writing ResolutionThis blog has had many focuses over the course of its creation.  It started as a chronicle of my grad classes in Children’s Lit.  Then it transformed to a more book review focused blog.  One thing I need right now is a way for me to reflect and digest the progress I’m making on finishing my thesis.  (And seek out advice/tips from fellow writers–see bottom of post!) So I’m amping up the writing posts, but there should be a more steady diet of book reviews popping back up as well.

I’d set a deadline to be finished with the first draft of my novel over the summer.  But between having mono and transferring to a new job, nothing about this past summer went according to plan.  I’ve settled into the rhythm of my new job, and evenings spent sitting behind my desk with blankets and tea as I type away are now a real possibility.

I’m in the messy middle of my novel.  The middle was particularly difficult to even begin because I had a whole new setting and whole new cast of characters.  So I really felt like I was starting over.  I’ve written a large chunk of the middle and there are huge portions that I’m just not happy with.  I feel like I’ve taken some wrong turns and I need to go back in order to move forward.

I spent Friday night brainstorming every problem that I thought I had with this section of the novel.  Any doubt or frustration I was having.  See below:

photo 1

The next step was brainstorming possible solutions to these problems.  This has pretty much become my agenda for the next two weeks or so:

photo 3

Saturday afternoon I spent tackling some of the list.  I made Character Plan Sheets for the two characters I’m struggling with.  I also did some poking around on the internet for writing resources regarding romance writing.

I have no idea what I’m doing with the romance writing.  Really, I just want to know how to create romantic tension between my male and female characters and build a believable relationship.  I’m not writing Fifty Shades of Gray or anything.  It’s not THAT kind of romance writing.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to break away from the chronological novel and write backstory for one character.  I think all my problems stem from my not knowing his character well enough.  I especially need to know and understand how he got himself into his current situation.  What flaws led him there?  What insecurities does he have?  Where do his goals and ambitions come from?

I know that none of his backstory will actually be in the novel.  Part of me is so eager to be done already that I’m frustrated to be taking this “time out” of sorts.  But it might be freeing to write something that never has to be seen.  So here’s hoping I have some fun with it.  And here’s hoping that this makes writing the messy middle a little neater and easier.

Questions for my readers:

  • Do you know any good resources on writing backstory?
  • Do you know any good resources on writing romance?
  • Can anyone recommend good YA historical romances?

Behind the Story: Emotion Part 3

Owl & White/Red BookBehind the Story posts will be about what goes on behind the scenes as a writer creates their story.  I’ll be writing about my own writing process and sharing any tips or advice I’ve discovered on my own or gathered on the topic. Hopefully both readers and writers find these posts fascinating!
This week’s topic:
Emotion
The past two weeks I’ve been discussing emotional plots and emotional journeys from a writer’s perspective.  For previous posts:
What the Experts Have to Say
Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies
By Deborah Halverson
Pages 98-99 examine the differences between plot driven stories and character driven stories.  
Plot driven stories “put the action first” and “have an episodic feel to them as the characters move from event to event” and are often described as “page turners.”  Plot driven stories tend to appeal to boys and are often the following genres: adventure, fantasy, mystery, crime, thriller, and sometimes historical fiction.  One warning about plot driven stories is that characters can sometimes become stereotypical because the author wants to move the pace along instead of spending time on characterization.
Character driven stories “spotlight your main character’s emotions and psychological development” and “what happens isn’t as important as how the character reacts emotionally to what happens.”  The following genres are often character driven: contemporary-issue books, chick lit, multicultural stories, and coming-of-age themed books.  Some warnings for character driven stories are to beware of telling instead of showing, not to be afraid of action because it can reveal more about your character, and  to beware slow pacing from too much emotional wallowing and self-analysis.
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression
By Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
This is a very cool book.  Emotions are arranged alphabetically into entries similar to a dictionary or encyclopedia.  You can look up an emotion and it will give you:
  • definition
  • physical signals
  • internal sensations
  • mental responses
  • cues of acute or long-term feelings
  • what this emotion could escalate to
  • cues of suppressed feelings

It’s really an amazing little book.  Especially if you feel like you are overusing the same response for an emotion.  For example, your character keeps having stomach fluttering when she’s nervous.  If you look up nervousness, you get 33 physical signals and 11 internal sensations that indicate nervousness.  So awesome!
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
By John Gardner
Gardner presents an interesting exercise for using description of setting to convey the emotions of the character.  His exercise: “Describe a barn as seen by a man whose son has just been killed in a war.  Do not mention the son, or war, or death.  Do not mention the man who does the seeing.”  Gardner says that a talented writer should be able to conjure a powerful image that evokes everything the man is feeling using the barn as a focus.
Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, & Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults
By Cheryl Klein
Klein has a short but wonderful chapter in her book titled, “Four Techniques to Get at the Emotional Heart of Your Story.”  My favorite part of the chapter was where she said, “Every scene has to have a point, and often it is an emotional point.”  When you’re revising a manuscript, and perhaps asked to cut scenes, you can ask yourself if this scene is a plot point or an emotional point.  She even goes so far to say that writers will often cut off after the action and right before the emotional point is reached.  This made me wonder if I had any scenes where emotions weren’t dealt with because I cut out too early.
How to Write a Damn Good Novel
By James N. Frey
Frey has a great section titled, “Inner Conflict and the Necessity Thereof.”  Basically, he writes that inner conflict is necessary for good fiction.  He gives several classic literary examples to illustrate his point.  He says that Godzilla doesn’t have the makings of dramatic fiction because there is no inner conflict.  Giant green monster tearing up your city, of course you kill him.  There is no internal battle of wills.  In Hamlet on the other hand, the prince wants to kill his father’s murderer but has an internal struggle against it.  This internal struggle is what grips the reader and makes great dramatic fiction.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts on emotion!  Let me know in the comments if you have another writing topic you’d like to see featured!

Links to Previous ‘Behind the Story’ Posts:

Behind the Story: Emotion Part 2

Owl & White/Red BookBehind the Story posts will be about what goes on behind the scenes as a writer creates their story.  I’ll be writing about my own writing process and sharing any tips or advice I’ve discovered on my own or gathered on the topic. Hopefully both readers and writers find these posts fascinating!
This week’s topic:
Emotion
Last week’s post was all about how a story has an action plot and an emotional plot.  To see last week’s post, click here.  This week’s post is about how I revised a draft to improve the emotional plot as well as a discussion of emotional filters.
Emotional Journey
So what’s the next step after identifying the emotional journey of your protagonist?  Conveying that journey.  As I said last post, I’d left myself some breadcrumbs.  Some clues.  But I had to hunt for those breadcrumbs, so surely my reader isn’t going to be able to follow me down that path.  I needed to construct a clearer path, so that my reader could see the journey or change that my main character went through.
In the case of revising “Rebel Angel,” I had to go back into the story and look at how Vera behaved and reacted to situations.  In the beginning of the story, I needed her to show off her rebellious and cavalier attitude, but hint at her own internal struggle with being a failure as an angel.  As I moved to the middle of the story, I had to continue her rebellious attitude, reveal frustration with her mission, and show moments where Vera revealed she cared about her job.  In the ending, I needed Vera to make a desperate shift as she becomes determined to do her job and embracing her role as a guardian angel.
Vera was a bland character in the first draft, so I had to go back and add lots of snarky dialogue, eye-rolling, and a devil-may-care attitude.  I decided that I needed a mentor figure for her to butt heads with, but also to give her that boost of confidence she needed when she became desperate.  Vera also became a more real character to me, flawed and fascinating.  The first draft was around 20 pages, and the second draft was 40 pages.  But the story felt so much more whole after that revision.  It had the action, but it was also an emotional journey.  And even my favorite action-packed novels have characters who grow and change over the course of the book.
Exercise #2

Outline general behaviors, attitudes, fears of your main character at different points in you story that will reveal a progression or growth in their emotional journey.  (Like I did above for Vera the Angel)

Again, I’m a fan of charts, so you might find this format helpful:
Emotional Filter
Here’s another tricky bit in conquering the emotional plot of your story: the emotional filter.  At least, I find it tricky.  Because as much as my characters feel like real people, I am not them.  When I write, I don’t suddenly inhabit their body and mind and let it take over me.  I don’t suddenly see the world as they live it.  Maybe some writers write this way, but I don’t.  I’m very much conscious of the desk, my computer, my cup of tea, and the words coming out of my fingertips.  I’m conscious of the fact that I’m writing, and I’m thinking about where I want the story to go and what words will get me there.
If you aren’t familiar with the term, emotional filter is a writing term, especially important in first person but also close third, that is used in revising writing to remind a writer to see a scene from the character’s emotional perspective.  I tend to struggle with this because I’m not thinking as my main character as I write.
I usually have to go back after my initial drafting and insert emotions and inner monologue.  Sometimes I’ll have some breadcrumbs of emotions to work with, but usually it’s something I have to go back through and add.  As I’ve become aware of emotions being a weak point for me, I think I’ve gotten better at weaving them into my first drafts.  But I know that looking at my emotional plot is going to be one of the major points of my revision when I do finally have a complete first draft.
Three ways to convey what a character is feeling:
  1. Inner Monologue: Dive into what the character is thinking and give the reader direct thoughts.  This is also an excellent way to slow or freeze the narrative for dramatic effect if it is a particularly important or poignant moment.
  2. Dialogue: Convey the emotions through what that character says.  Could your character be confused?  Were they blindsided?  Have them stammer and ask questions.  Is your character angry?  Have them speak tersely or shout.
  3. Action: Little ticks and behaviors can convey emotions.  A clench of the fists, a gasp of breath, a twirl of the hair, a glance at the floor.  I would say that actions are best used in combination with dialogue or thoughts in order to give the reader a full picture of what the character is feeling.

Exercise #3

Write what might seem as a small/insignificant moment, but then convey that this moment has emotional weight for your character.

Exercise #4

Find a scene that is lacking an emotional filter and revise by adding emotions and inner monologue.  Show a before and after of that scene.

Return next week for what I found the experts had to say about emotion and some great writing resources!

Behind the Story: Emotion Part 1

Owl & White/Red BookBehind the Story posts will be about what goes on behind the scenes as a writer creates their story.  I’ll be writing about my own writing process and sharing any tips or advice I’ve discovered on my own or gathered on the topic. Hopefully both readers and writers find these posts fascinating!
This week’s topic:
Emotion

I have strong tastes when it comes to what types of books I enjoy reading.  Note the word “enjoy.”  Reading is my form of escape, and as much as I can, I try to keep reading as something that I do for pleasure.  Due to my personal tastes, one of the biggest categories/genres of books I don’t enjoy is the problem novel.  Characters dealing with emotional issues and internal conflict aren’t fun for me to read.  They stress me out.  Reading about people with serious, real life problems is not how I choose to spend my evening curled up on the couch.  Have I still read some of these books?  Yes.  I’ve read works by Ellen Hopkins (Impulse) and Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak and Wintergirls).  Can these books be important?  Yes.  Do I know students who have loved these kinds of books?  Yes.  But novels dealing with emotional issues and internal conflict are not my cup of tea.

What I do enjoy: conflict, action, suspense, plots with twists and turns.  Give me a quest.  Give me a battle between good and evil.  Give me dire stakes to save the one you love.  That’s my kind of story.  And therefore, that’s what I tend to write.  I’m a conflict and plot driven writer.  I plan out my books by the obstacles and challenges I intend for my characters to face.  And I love writing this way.  It’s great.

However, the wisdom of one of my professors pointed out that a novel can’t be just action.  A novel has an action plot and an emotional plot.  Typically, in my first draft, I have the action plot down.  It’s my emotional plot that needs some help.

At first, this whole realization of an emotional plot kind of blew my mind.  I didn’t really know what to do about it.  It makes sense when you look at my reading preferences.  Was I a total failure at this emotional stuff?  But then I looked at the first drafts of my stories, and I realized that I’d left myself clues as to the emotional plot.  Like breadcrumbs I didn’t know I’d trailed behind me as I was munching my way through the forest.

My first step to remedying my weak emotional plot, was to gather the clues I left myself and piece together the emotional journey my character goes on over the course of the story.

I find it helpful to identify both the action plot and the emotional journey.  Sometimes it’s helpful to see how they fit together.  And if you’re someone who is good at the emotional stuff, then it might help you to outline your action plot.

For example, here is the action plot and emotional plot of my novella “Rebel Angel”:

The action plot is composed of events or challenges in the physical world, whereas the emotional plot should be showing how the character grows and changes over the course of the story.

Exercise #1

Identify the action plot and emotional plot of your novel.  I find the chart helpful, but you may use any format that works for you.

Return next week for more about emotional plots and more writing exercises!

Links to Previous ‘Behind the Story’ Posts:
Pacing and Description Part 1
Pacing and Description Part 2
Pacing and Description Part 3
Choosing Character Names

Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2013




Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. For more information about Top Ten Tuesday and a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics, click here.
Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2013

My goals are a mix of “personal bookish accomplishments” as well as how many books I want to read and where I want to purchase my books.

1. Finish novel and begin querying in Fall 2013.
I’m writing a steampunk novel for my Masters thesis.  It’s a retelling of a classic piece of literature, and I’m having a total blast writing it.  I’m setting aside the entire months of June and July for revisions (summer vacation from teaching), and August is my deadline for completion!  Wish me luck!

2. Graduate with my Masters in Children’s Literature.
Once I have my Masters in hand, my goal is to find a job in Children’s Publishing.  I would love to work with middle grade or YA in an editorial or marketing role.  I’m currently exploring different avenues and entry level positions.

3. Post at least one book review a week.
My schedule for January has me posting two to three book reviews a week because I’m trying to catch up from my hiatus.  Reviews are slated in my posting schedule for Mondays, occasional Wednesdays, and Saturdays.  I’d love to keep up a two a week schedule, but as it’s tough for me to READ two books a week (with teaching middle school and writing my thesis), I didn’t think that was a realistic goal for me to maintain.

4. Read 12 debut novels.
Last year was my first year attempting the Debut Author Challenge.  I purchased 12 debut novels… but didn’t get around to reading 12 debut novels.  This year I’m setting a goal to post a “Debut Review” on the last day of every month.  This is a way of setting a deadline for myself, and I work well with deadlines (even the self-imposed kind).

5. Read 3 Newbery books and 3 Printz books.
I took a graduate course in Newbery books as well as heard a guest speaker who served on the Newbery committee.  It gave me a real understanding and sense of honor for these awards.  I’m always excited to hear what books are awarded medals each year, and I want to continue reading Newbery and Printz award winners each year (not just when I’m taking a class!)  I also enjoy trying to figure out why this book was chosen/selected versus other books, and identifying the winner’s merits.  I’m a total nerd!

6. Read 7 steampunk novels.
I am likely going to be doing an independent study in the Spring on steampunk, and therefore know I will be reading a bunch of it.  I also want to read what is out there in terms of YA steampunk so as to place my own novel in context.  Is it similar to what’s already been published?  What does it have to offer that’s new?  I have some theories, but I really need to read more in order to prove my assumptions correct.  Some books on my list: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress, Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve, and The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann.

7. Read 3-5 contemporary novels.
This is a genre that I’m slowly growing to enjoy.  This year I read Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, The Fault in Our Stars, and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (review forthcoming).  All of which I enjoyed, despite not being an avid contemporary reader.  This year I will undoubtedly be reading Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen, and Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry.  I’ll be watching for a few more contemporary reads to add as well.

8. Read 3-5 historical fiction novels.
This is a genre that I used to love.  I totally grew up on the American Girl series. (Felicity was my favorite.) I’d love to renew my love of historical fiction because lately I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction.  I’ve heard great things about Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson.  But I’ll gladly take recommendations of great historical fiction.

9. Do majority of eBook purchasing from indie booksellers through Kobo.
I’m a little upset by what I’ve read about Amazon’s business practices and their interactions with publishers, authors, and booksellers.  Despite loving my Kindle Touch, I want to shift my book purchasing to support independent booksellers.  I got an iPad for Christmas and downloaded the Kobo app.  Through Kobo, I can purchase eBooks from my favorite indie stores, like Browseabout Books in Rehoboth, Delaware or Politics and Prose in Washington D.C.  I want to purchase eBooks from the stores that offer me great book events, opportunities to meet my favorite authors, and a great shopping experience.

10. Start novel #2.
I’m not even done with book one, and I’m already thinking ahead to book two!  That’s partially because book two was started before I even began book one.  But then there was the “Dystopian Boom” and I realized I had to figure out a way to make my dystopian trilogy different from all the others being offered.  I had a unique premise, but I needed a different ending.  Most dystopians end with either the protagonist running away from the dystopian society or rebelling against the dystopian society.  I wanted an ending that would be neither of those.  And I found one!  A fantastic twist!  I can’t wait to return to this project when I finish my steampunk novel.

Whew!  Does anyone else feel like they need to print out all their goals and resolutions and post them on the walls to keep them in sight?  I have a lot I want to get done this year!

What are your Bookish Goals?

Behind the Story: Pacing & Description Part 3

Owl & White/Red BookBehind the Story posts will be about what goes on behind the scenes as a writer creates their story.  I’ll be writing about my own writing process and sharing any tips or advice I’ve discovered on my own or gathered on the topic. Hopefully both readers and writers find these posts fascinating!
This week’s topic:
Pacing and Description
The past two weeks I’ve been discussing pacing and description as a writer.  For previous posts:
This week I’ll be giving you two more writing tips as well as two more exercises!
Pacing Tip #2: White Space and Description Between Dialogue
In terms of teens, white space is your friend.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve handed my classes a book or story or article and heard them groan when they are overwhelmed by the number of words on a page.  But you can have the opposite reaction if you pay attention to white space.  White space is the negative space where there are no words.  It’s an easy way to keep an eye on your pacing.  You can assume that readers move slowly through a page with little white space because they have a lot of words to read, but a page with a lot of white space will move much quicker.  The easiest way of increasing the amount of white space on a page is to add dialogue.  I’ve noticed that many of the more popular/mass market authors tend to not only write a lot of dialogue, but are also good at writing witty dialogue.  Bravo if that’s your strength!  But even if it’s not, a wisely placed bit of dialogue can break up the pacing of a slow scene.
Author, James Patterson and his Maximum Ride series has a ridiculous amount of white space in his books.  His books run roughly 400 pages, but I’d say at least a third to a half of the book is white space.  He uses an abundance of dialogue.  But what’s really sneaky is his chapters.  There are 134 chapters in the first book, and there are chapter breaks every 2-4 pages.  Picture the amount of white space that comes at the beginning and end of a chapter, and you can imagine how much white space a kid sees when flipping through his books when there’s 134 chapters. (I’ve also noticed that my students love the feeling of triumph in saying they read a 134 chapter book.)  I am not a fan of the Maximum Ride series and don’t find them to be especially well written.  But they are the most fast paced books I’ve seen out there, and I think it’s in large part due to James Patterson’s use of white space.
Writing Exercise #2
Look through your work in progress and see if you can find a section that is text heavy with very little white space.  See if you can insert a brief scene of dialogue to break up the text.

This may sound hard, but I did it for a scene I wrote on Monday!  I saw that I had a long paragraph, and figured out how to convey a lot of the same information through a conversation between two characters instead!
Pacing Tip #3: Sensory Details and Characters Interacting With the Setting
The easiest way to slip in setting without your reader noticing that you’re doing any description at all is by having you characters interact with the setting.  I added sensory details to this tip because those are easy ways to tell if you characters are interacting with the setting.  Does you character feel raindrops rolling down their face?  You just sneakily introduced that it was raining!  Does your character taste salt in the air?  You just told us we’re by the ocean!  Does your character hear the click-clacking of high heels on linoleum?  We must be inside a building, perhaps an official one where women where heels!  See how you can reveal setting through sensory details?  Below are some examples of characters interacting with the setting, often through sensory details.

Pressing her cheek to the warm, gritty pavement, she was able to make out three sets of yellow boots across the square.  An emergency crew. She peeled the door open farther and watched the men–all wearing gas masks–as they doused the interior of the booth with liquid from a yellow can.  Even across the square, Cinder wrinkled her nose at the stench.
Cinder, page 17

Here, the author, Marissa Meyer uses sensory details to show her character interacting with the setting.  You get an idea that this is an urban, secretive, and possibly dystopian setting from the sights, smells, and touch of the place through Cinder’s interactions.  (I absolutely love this sci-fi take on Cinderella and highly recommend it!)

But she was still five hundred feet up when the first sheets of rain arrived.  The cold drops fell diagonally, hitting her dangling feet even under the cover of the airbeast.  Its tentacles coiled tighter, and she wondered how long the medusa would take this pounding before it spilled its hydrogen, hurling itself to the ground.
Leviathan, Page 57

Here, author, Scott Westerfeld informs you of several setting details while maintaining an action-packed narrative.  You learn the setting is up in the sky, during a powerful storm.  I think the pacing and action is heightened by his strong verbs in this section as well: hitting, dangling, coiled, pounding, spilled, and hurling.  There are also sensory details: cold drops and hitting her dangling feet.
Exercise #3

Choose a setting and write a paragraph introducing details about that setting through how your character interacts with the place.  Try to include two or three of the senses in your paragraph.

Repeat for two more different settings!  Bonus points if you include all five senses for a single setting!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts on pacing and description!  Stay tuned next week for a post on emotion!