How to bring a setting to life

A lot of writers have a love hate relationship with settings. It’s almost like settings are a necessary evil because stories can’t exist without them but fleshing them out is not the easiest thing to do. Breathing life into characters is fun and gratifying. When people ask you about the book we are writing, we can’t wait to jump right into descriptions about the intricate plots and sexy characters. Settings become an after thought. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are things we can do to bring our settings to life and make creating them a little less painful.

It was a dark and stormy night… Although this opener gives the reader a hint of the setting, this line is more like setting a scene. Always be aware of the difference. The place where your story takes place is the setting. Are your characters in Atlanta, Detroit, or Seattle. Does your short story take place in a botanical garden or a prison?  And it doesn’t stop there.

How do your characters interact with their setting? Traffic in Atlanta is terrible. So what if your main character is an impatient mother of three that has to get her kids to school and drive across town to a job where her boss does not tolerate tardiness. Oh, and she has been late to work four times this month. How does that setting affect her actions and emotions? What if your main character grew up in Phoenix Arizona? He played golf in high school and at a local college. But he meets a woman, the love of his life, and after college he follows her to her hometown of Seattle? How does our golf playing hero of the desert cope with living in a cold and rainy city where he can only play golf a few months out of the year? And the setting can assist your story with mood and tone too. The moods and tones will be drastically different in stories set in botanical gardens and prisons.

When you sit down to work on your next setting, take as much care as you do when creating characters. The geography, climate, and politics of your setting will help you with your plot, characters, and story overall. THink about it, have fun with it.

~ Write On

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