When I talk about setting I mean more than world-building (if you’re a fantasy writer). I mean the stuff that makes up the everyday of your characters. The weather, their house, the city they live in, what they can smell. Essentially, the elements that attack our senses that we take for granted. As writers, sometimes we become so accustomed to the setting of our stories that we forget our readers may never have been there before.
Granted I’m not one to overdo the setting description. I like to tell you what you need to know and no more, but I’ve learned of late how important setting can be to the overall feel of your novel.
Here are a few things to consider when you’re setting up your setting:
- Is this the most appropriate place for the story to take place?
- Will the reader benefit from knowing this about the setting or am I just trying to add to my word count?
- Can the reader see/feel/smell the setting or are my words empty?
- Will this setting enhance my character arcs and plot?
The setting is an essential element to your narrative and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Consider what works best for your novel, even if it means a full rewrite (which is what I’m experiencing right now). If you can, visit that place and get a personal feel for the culture, the weather, the sights and sounds.
And more than anything, practice. Practice writing your story (or a snippet of it) in different settings. See what works and what doesn’t. What is lacking in one story but fulfilled in another by the setting? A story in the desert is going to be much different than one in the mountains or even one in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
And if this post means nothing to you, at least let my friend Ray Bradbury give you some inspiration:
Keep practicing, writer friends!
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