The importance of setting in a work of fiction cannot be down-played. Whether internal, imaginary or real, setting is where your story takes place. By creating believable settings, you lead readers into your story and enable them to be swept up in the world of your story.
If you are writing fantasy or science fiction, world building is of vital importance, but it is just as significant in any other work of fiction. Historical fiction shows us the world as it once was and relies on accuracy of setting to complete the past. Even contemporary fiction uses setting to give insight into characters’ lives.
We live within environments and respond to that which we find around us. Setting, therefore, can inform action as characters react to the setting you create. I once wrote a story that took place entirely within the mind of the main character, it was an internal dialogue of sorts. Setting was of great significance here in exploring the psychology of this character – the setting became a metaphor and signifier of the characters thoughts and emotions.
When creating a sense of place, remember:
- Give indications to time, location and period.
- Be specific: add detail to your descriptions.
- Don’t forget the senses: taste, hearing, smell, touch, sight.
- Don’t add in setting for the sake of it, rather show it as your characters respond to their surrounds.
- Avoid huge slabs of description, rather reveal the setting as your story unfolds.
Write a brief description of each of your settings. Then, take your main character and put them into the various settings of your story. Write at least a paragraph for each setting and simply explore what your character does in each place. You will notice that as soon as you put someone into your setting, rather than just being a description, the place comes to life.
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