Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Get Out of the Kitchen - Guest Post by Janice Hardy

I am excited to welcome Janice Hardy, author of The Healing Wars trilogy and fellow blogger.  She'll be talking about location, location, and location.

We’ve all heard it. Beware the dreaded kitchen table conversation scene. Do your best to avoid characters who sit around a table talking, usually rehashing plot or figuring out the next step of the plot. But what do we do with them once we chase them out of the kitchen?

These scenes are great opportunities for a little setting or world building.

One of the problems with setting is that it can get in the way of the story. It can be challenging to slip in all those details in the middle of whatever action is going on. But when you have a conversation that needs to take place and a boring locale for it, try picking one of those setting aspects you want to show off and move the conversation there. Not sure where to go? Ask yourself…

Is there a location that will enhance the theme of that conversation?

Look for thematic elements that can add layers to your conversation. For example, if your characters are worried about how they’re going to pay the rent and how their latest get-rich scheme failed, letting them discuss this as they’re walking through a poor neighborhood gives you opportunities to show the poverty-stricken world and reinforce what they have to lose if they can’t come up with the money.

Can the location illustrate one of the character’s states of mind?

If they’re happy, a park or beach might help reflect that. Or you could even use something traditionally dark and gloomy to contrast against their happiness. (and vice versa) Someone who is scared might see dangers all around them, and give you an opportunity to show the lurking troubles inherent in your world. You can also use that setting to reinforce the emotion you want the reader to feel.

Can the location foreshadow anything?

Seemingly meaningless details can be slipped in and planted in the reader’s mind. They’re just background noise now, but that seed will grow and when you reveal the big secret later, they’ll realize they should have known all along and it’ll feel more natural. The reader might be focused on the conversation, but the things the characters are passing or interacting with might carry a lot more hints to what’s really going on.

Is there a location that can make your protagonist uncomfortable?

One of the troubles with kitchen table conversations is that they might be important information, but they seldom have the tension to carry the scene. But the setting can provide that tension and make things more difficult. What is the worst place for these characters to have this conversation?

Combing setting and kitchen table conversations can give you a much more interesting scene and an easier way to handle two often troublesome elements. You might even discover new ways to deepen your conflicts or cause friction between the characters having that conversation. Because where we are, definitely influences how we feel – and what we say.

 The Shifter is the first in the trilogy.

Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person into her own body. But unlike her sister, Tali, and the other Takers who become Healers' League apprentices, Nya's skill is flawed: She can't push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it into another person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden from forces occupying her city. If discovered, she'd be used as a human weapon against her own people.
Rumors of another war make Nya's life harder, forcing her to take desperate risks just to find work and food. She pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purposes. At first Nya refuses, but when Tali and other League Healers mysteriously disappear, she's faced with some difficult choices. As her father used to say, principles are a bargain at any price; but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

Blue Fire is available now!

Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

For more information about Janice Hardy visit her website at

And her blog, The Other Side of the Story


  1. Oh, Janice! This is EXACTLY what I needed to read this morning. Thank you for doing this fantastic blog tour. And Chandara, thanks for hosting her!

  2. I love it when the author slips in little clues that look like nothing at first but turn out to be tied to something later. Sometimes I wonder if the clues had been randomly put in first and then utilized into the surprise or if the surprise had come first and the clues added later. Probably a combination most of the time.

    Hmm, I'm getting ideas.

  3. Thanks!

    Awesome, Vonna, I love when that happens. (both to me, and from me).

    Jaleh, for me, it's a combo for sure. Sometimes I put stuff in on purpose, others I realize some throwaway detail could be a lot more. And that's just given me an idea for another tour topic! Thanks for that :)

  4. Great ideas. I've had to cut out some meal scenes for the reasons you suggest. Not enough tension or enough moving the plot along. Thanks for your suggestions.

  5. Awesome post, Janice!!! *runs off to insert brilliant tips to WIP*

  6. Thanks everyone for stopping by.

    And thanks Janice!! You are awesome!

  7. Thank you so much for letting me hang out here. I had fun :)


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