Choosing The Setting Of A Story

By on February 12, 2021

Choosing the right setting for your novel is paramount and will have a huge impact on the rest of your story. The most successful books manage to conjure a vivid visual picture in their reader’s mind's eye. The reader feels as though they are enveloped in the world, they can hear the sounds, see the sights, smell the smells - the setting is real, almost tangible to them. 

To create the setting of a story that your readers can sink into is a skill and those books that do well ensure to pay attention to their setting, to carefully build it page by page until it becomes like a second reality.  The landscape and the plot and the characters all become intertwined, all influence one another, and the book would become impossible if one part was removed. 

So how can you ensure that you create a setting that is richly descriptive, that complements your post and that is unique? Here are some things to think about.

How time and place interact with the story.

Your novel is likely to span over a period of time, it may jump between time periods and will also unravel in many different settings. Understanding how to evoke the senses and allow your readers to move seamlessly between the different settings of your novel is important. If your book is set in the ‘real’ world, it’s a good idea to pick somewhere that you know quite well. If you grew up on wild moorlands, for example, you’ll know what it sounds like when gusts of wind rush through the heathers, if you grew up in a bustling coastal town you’ll be able to describe the freshness of salty air on your skin, or what it tastes like to shove fistfuls of hot salted chips down your throat while staring out to sea. 

Of course, the setting of a story can be anywhere, but if you haven’t experienced the setting you are trying to describe you need to do your research. Either you need to take yourself on a road trip and visit some places that are similar to where you’d like to set your book, or you need to reach for books and your laptop and start doing some research. 

Magical settings in your story

If your setting is otherworldly then you have to work even hard to get the details right. You should pull together mood boards of images and words and colors, you should create a list of rules and customs that make sense of your world so you can refer back to them and keep things consistent, you should consider why you are building this particular world and how your characters will interact with it and how it will advance your story. 

Time and story setting

Time is so important in setting. Your story will be set in a particular time, either in history, in the present, or the future. Establishing your timeframe will gain a far better understanding of how to build your setting so that it resonates with and makes sense for your reader. 

Creating rich descriptions is also essential when it comes to building a setting that your readers can connect with. If you are too stingy with your descriptive language there will be too big a gap for the readers to fill in themselves. They don’t want to have to do the hard work - so don’t make them. This doesn’t mean that you have to describe everything you see in painstaking detail, rather that you choose what your reader should pay attention to, direct them to it, and use rich, compelling language to evoke a vivid picture. 

Your setting should influence how your story unfolds. by placing your characters in a setting you are providing them with a world in which to navigate and that world can help them achieve their goals or can create obstacles to prevent them from doing so. The choices they make about where to go and what to use could make all the difference, so ensure that you use the setting to create a more interesting and multi-pronged story. 

If you need more help, check out these story setting examples!

Creating the setting can be a hugely enjoyable part of writing a book and can make a big difference to how enjoyable it is to read. So make sure that you pay attention to the different aspects of choosing a setting, and make your decisions with care!

Now you understand more about the setting of a story why not read about developing your story idea?

About Beth Cadman

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