How to Use Setting

Setting is crucial to our stories. We don’t want our action happening on the blank white page, it needs to be grounded in your story world. Yet setting is often overlooked. So what can we do to make sure we’re incorporating our setting enough? Let’s take a look.

  • Use the 5 senses. Access the senses, all five of them, to bring your story world to life. Is the sun beating down on your character or is there a brisk wind? Can they smell a rose garden blooming or car exhaust downtown? Bring your reader into your world with the senses.
  • PeteLinforth / Pixabay

    Use concrete details. Be specific. Using exact descriptions leads to vivid writing, so say oak instead of tree, chipped white wooden fence, lilac and rose garden, etc.

  • Be concise. You don’t want to describe everything, especially if something is not important to your story. Remember if you tell your readers your character has a gun, they’ll expect it to go off later. This is great for foreshadowing, but don’t leave your readers feeling cheated if it doesn’t come into play later. But do describe each scene and every detail that is important. One way to balance is to give an overall impression of the place and two specific descriptions. The café was in a word eclectic. A cat skeleton greeted you at the order counter and airplane propellers hung from the multicolored walls
  • Filtered through a character. Everybody notices different things based on their personality and background, so your setting should be filtered through the lens of the POV character describing the place. A working class man will notice different things than a millionaire’s daughter. Describe accordingly.

My last tip for setting is to make sure you include setting in more than just the beginning of a scene. Most writers do well to describe it initially, but then leave the rest of the scene floating around in the white abyss of nothingness. Make sure your characters keep interacting with the world around them.

That’s all I have today for setting, what other tips do you have? Comment below and happy writing!

Julia

Check out my blog and Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration and find me on Facebook where I post weekly prompts and stories.

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J.K. Allen

Columnist/Illustrator at Our Write Side/OWS Ink, LLC
Julia Allen received her BA in Creative Writing and English from Michigan State University. She did her senior thesis in poetry under the tutelage of Diane Wakoski, but has been focused primarily on fiction as of late. Common writing themes that can be found in her work address identity and the type of strength that can be found in ordinary people. Julia is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy novel and can be found at local cafes in her hometown when writing, and painting, drawing, or reading when not.
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