The setting is an integral part of a story. Without it, your characters might as well be in a blank room, and with it, readers’ minds are filled with images of new places, far-off lands, or homes they’ve never entered.
The setting has the ability to capture the imagination of your reader, but how do you include it in your story? We’ve compiled tips for making sure your setting comes through in your story.
Allow your setting to tell a story
Let your setting reflect the inner worlds of your characters. Use setting to increase mood with weather elements or create tension with descriptions of a creepy house.
Find a real location
If you’re looking for inspiration, visit an interesting location in your area. Notice how it sounds and smells and looks. Notice what kind of people are there, or if there are no people. Take time to explore. Write about it. It may be a good location for a story. If you use a real location in a story, remember that some readers may double-check your research.
Think beyond just place
Think about how the culture and society impact setting. Consider the time period and include elements that would only exist in that time period.
Make your setting relevant
Think about your story. Could it happen in any time period? Consider why you’ve chosen this particular time and place. If there’s no reason why you’ve chosen the 80s, maybe a contemporary story may be better. Think about how the setting impacts your character’s choices and the way they view the world.
Do more than describe
Have your characters interact with their setting. Maybe they drink tea from a teapot with a certain pattern in the corner. Maybe it’s cold outside so someone snuggles up with a raggedy hand-woven blanket. Make elements of the setting tell stories about your characters, like a picture on the wall of a loved one or a messy room for a character that never has time.
Don’t go overboard
Setting is great, but make sure your story is balanced. Include dialogue and action and don’t let your reader get bogged down in the description. Know how much information is needed. Only write a whole page describing a teapot if that teapot is vital to the story. Even then, is a whole page on a teapot ever necessary?
Cut locations you don’t need
Sometimes, to streamline a story, a character gets cut. Locations are no different. The time between different locations can get tiring, so consider which locations tell us something about the character and the conflict.
Go beyond the visual
Remember to incorporate all the senses in describing a place. Consider how it smells, how it feels, and how it sounds. Think about textures and smells and what all of those elements say about the story. Consider your point of view character and what elements they would notice. For example, someone who works in a perfume store may notice smells everywhere they go. Someone who loves knitting may focus on the tactile world around them.