Usually I begin a story by getting inside a character. (This habit is probably left over from my theater days.) But in my newest book, THE BOOK OF DARES FOR LOST FRIENDS, I started with a fire escape.

I imagined the kids literally hanging out there. I imagined them wanting to climb and being afraid to fall. I imagined them longing to escape from family life, but unable to get any farther. They are, after all, "smack dab in the middle" -- between childhood and adulthood. I imagined the cat who roamed the alley below. I imagined lots of other things that were shed from the story somewhere between drafts 2 and 11. 

But the fire escape remained. 

"It was a law that each building in New York City must provide an alternative exit, should disaster strike. There had never been a fire, thank goodness, and yet practically every day Lanora needed to escape."

Setting can launch the themes. (A fire escape is more air than metal, so how can it lead Lanora to safety?) Setting can enhance the dramatic tension. (Will those who climb fall?) Setting can define character. (Val swings freely from the rungs. Lanora thinks about how rust is gnawing at the metal.) Setting adds dimension. (How will they change after they climb out the window? Or climb back in?)

The fire escape is just one of many settings in the book. That's one of the joys of writing and reading---you can go anywhere.

This book is coming out on July 14. 

I'm giving away 5 copies. If you are a member of GOODREADS, click on this link. GOODREADS giveaway. If you aren't a member, you should join! It's free and fun!


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