Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book in a Month Pt 15: Creating a Setting

When choosing a setting for my novel I usually pick a place I have lived before (So I won't have to do as much research) hehe. But I have always been fond of places that I would love to write about someday, like New Orleans. There is so much to think about when writing fiction, plot, characters, etc. that setting seems to take a back seat for me. But I am beginning to realize just how important it is.

The setting makes the story world feel real to a reader, it engages their imagination and enhances the mood of the story.

Location, Location, Location
Here are the basics for creating a setting:
  • Where is the setting?
  • What year is it?
  • What time of year is it? 
  • What time of day is it?
  • What is the weather like?
  • What is the architecture and/or the geography?

Setting the Stage 
  • The setting creates the ambiance of the scene and sets the mood
  • The setting supports and enhances the plot
  • Setting can be used to create metaphors for the story
  • The location's unique characteristics can be highlighted. How is this place interesting?
  • Are there specific places that scenes could take place that would enhance the story?
  • How do the characters interact with the setting?

It's All In The Details
I've learned that the setting helps to immerse the reader so it feels like they are actually in the story world. Details are important. It is better to say an 83' Toyota Tacoma than "the vehicle." Be as specific as you can. Also, try to include action verbs in describing the setting, and provide enough sprinkling of detail throughout so the reader knows where the characters are.

The 5 Senses
Another way to enhance the story setting is to include the five senses.
  • sight
  • touch
  • smell
  • sound
  • taste
Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld
This is a fantastic resource for writers. It explains the fundamentals of strong scene construction and other useful fiction-writing techniques such as character development, setting description, and plot.

Wishing on Daisies Progress: 16 days left
Current Progress: 10381 words
Chapter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - Complete. 
Chapter 6 - Still in Progress

What do you think about setting? Are there any techniques that you use?


  1. Ooo... I haven't read Make A Scene... thanks for point that book out, Andrea. ;)

    And you're so spot on with everything you've listed here. Setting can affect so much...

    And way to go on your WIP!

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Andrea. I like how your posts give excellent writing advice. I live in Ohio but chose places I've visited--Chicago and Pensacola--for my settings. I have family in downtown Chicago and it seems like such a vibrant city, perfect for my mafia stories. I love the beaches of Pensacola. I also used the setting of Annapolis and I think that part of the story wasn't as rich because I'd never been there, despite my copious research of the Naval Academy.

  3. Dude I heart, heart, heart that beach pic - where is that???

    Also unrelated to this particular blog post - who's that handsome fella pictured in your "Oh, my hero!" post?????
    Some Dark Romantic

  4. I usually make up a location when I write but base it on a real place where I have lived or been (the names have been changed to protect the innocent and all of that). Good tips on setting. I am going to keep your questions in mind as I write. I will also have to check out Make a Scene. Congrats on your progress on Wishing on Daisies!

    1. P.S. I am passing a blog award on to you. Check out my post on Monday. Thanks for the words of wisdom. I enjoy reading your posts. (Hopefully you have not received this award in the past.)

  5. Great list of tips and questions! I'm always trying to remind myself to write for all the senses - it pulls the reader in so well.

  6. Cool picture.

    Since I do contemporary and base it off where I live, setting should be easy. But as a writer, it's not my strong point and I have to work hard to get those details in. I feel better about dialogue and need to consciously think about the setting, otherwise I don't get much in.

  7. Great post! I find that setting new locations in books is a great excuse for traveling to those spots. Also, if you write about a different era, it's usually a place no one can truly go anymore, i.e. the New Orleans of the 1800s no longer exists, even though you can get some glimpses from the New Orleans of today. So long as the story is believable I think the setting will fall into place.

  8. Love that photo, Andrea!

    Great post. Creating detailed settings is a weak spot for me. This is something I'm currently struggling with, so I really appreciate your thoughts.

  9. Setting is really hard for historical fiction writing. Even if you live in the place or visit it, you can't see what it was like in 1867 or 1908. I rely a lot on old photographs, and luckily there are more and more of them available on the internet all the time.

    I haven't yet written a story set in a time before photographs. Then I'll really be up a river without a paddle!

  10. Hello, Andrea! This is fantastic. I'm eager to check out your earlier book in a month posts!

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog and commenting!

  11. Excellent post! Adding the right details really do make a difference and making sure to use all the senses is so important. You know, I've never yet set a book in an actual place. I think I'm afraid I would get it wrong an the residents would call me on it.

  12. This is great information. A book in a month? You go girl.

    Will be back.



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