Fiction · Plan · Write

Creating your settings


You have spent a long time developing your story and you are now getting the chance to fine-tune the settings in your work. How can you make sure the places your characters visit are believable and will add to the message you are trying to convey?

The setting of your story is almost a character in itself. You will likely have a few different settings that will act as a backdrop for your story. They will help your reader get a better picture of what’s going on, see how the world looks from your character’s point of view, and possibly even further your storyline. The setting will help your reader create a mental picture of your story and how your character fits into the world you’ve created. This means you will need to create something realistic given the parameters you’ve established for the world your story is set in.

To create an ideal setting, start with the broad picture and work down to the details. Certain scenes will likely need specific locations, so start by simply stating the general area. Then you can think about what absolutely has to be included in it. Once this is established, you can build the room around these features and include other information you’ve offered in different portions of your story.

For example, you may have a character walking into the kitchen. The plot calls for the character to steal some granola bars from a cabinet, so you know there must be at least one package of granola bars and a cabinet present. You also revealed in a previous chapter that the home she is visiting belongs to a chef who has been out of work for a while. This may mean that the kitchen is large and has top of the line appliances, but the basics may be absent due to the owner being down on his luck. It may be a kitchen that has little food in it, or one where certain items that should be there are now missing, presumably sold for some extra money.

The more familiar your character is with this space the more details will be added. Consider how she moves throughout the scene to determine what specifics are needed. If she isn’t familiar with this kitchen, how did she find the granola bars? Did she search through cabinets or just get lucky? Do the cabinets have glass panels allowing her to see the contents? Was it dark in the kitchen due to it being stormy outside, making is difficult for her to find what she was looking for?

Think about every aspect of each setting that you can and write it all down. Try to hammer out as many aspects of these places as possible, then take the time to figure out which details will matter in the story. As with your characters, there will be a lot of things you know about your setting that the reader won’t get to see but are still important to flesh out. The more information you have the better you will be able to describe things to your reader.

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