In my work as a writing coach and an editor, I read a lot of stories that don’t feel real. That might be because there are no senses involved. But the other big culprit is setting.
Every story takes place somewhere.
That’s right. Let me say it again.
Every story takes place somewhere.
And our job as a writer is to show the specific details of that setting, to give setting a presence in the story just as much as we give the plot and characters a presence in the story.
I’ve written before:
Setting has lovers and haters. It can be quite the polarizing part of the writer world.
The haters think of setting and the thing of description. Or they think of massive amounts of description that continues on forever and ever. The think setting equals boring.
The setting lovers think setting is the best thing in the whole universe. Their stories start with paragraph after paragraph after paragraph of mood and setting.
But no matter what camp you’re in, setting isn’t something that should be tacked onto a story. Setting is more than describing the living room. It creates the feeling of a story and its time, where it happens, its bit of the world. Poets and novelists of the past often make the landscape a character in their poem or their narrative. The claustrophobia of a small town like in Peyton Place or even Twilight’s moody darkness is part of the story and is an important aspect to the main characters’ moods and choices.
Writers who can visualize the setting and put that on the page are writers who transport their readers.
How do you make your settings amazing and sexy?
Make it surprising. Make how your characters interact with it matter.
We all expect someone to be moved at a sunrise or sunset’s beauty. What if your character is afraid of it?
Let your readers know what’s going on.
Keep them oriented in the scene. Don’t have the characters just floating out there in talking heads dialogue with no details or just all internal dialogue. Characters need to interact with the space.
Make your character interact with the setting on a big and small level.
Has your character been in their town their whole life and feels like it’s crushing her soul? Show that. That’s big-picture-interaction.
Does your character keep trying to scrub the dog drool off her wood floor? Show that. That’s small-picture-interaction.
Use All the Senses
I wrote about this earlier. It’s easy. Humans smell, feel, see, touch, hear and taste. Your characters should too. What they smell, feel, see, touch, hear and taste? That’s part of the setting.
Make it interesting
Every place is unique. Every setting has an aspect of difference. Bring those unique details out and have them matter to the story.
What Are The Three Types of Setting?
Wait what? Yep. You read that correctly. There are three types of setting.
Temporal – the era that the story is happening in.
Environmental – The geographical area
Individual – specific place in that area
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