Developing Setting

Developing Setting

Setting is one of the five elements of a story. To review the five elements of a story, click here.

Setting is an important part of a story. It lets your readers see the world the character lives in. It is extremely significant, but oftentimes overlooked. And when it isn’t overlooked, it’s sometimes overdone.

If your story takes place on another planet dissimilar to earth, describe it. If it takes place in a forest with plants not common across (your country), then describe them. But, very few people need to read the description of an oak. They’re big. They’re broad. Their trunks are often wide. Their leaves are distinctive. Pine trees? All right, there are many kinds, sure. Specify, that’s fine. Talk about the full, round needles that you make into tea. Or the flat needles you can’t consume. (Or, is it the other way around?)

You can talk about the surrounding imagery. The deep honking of a passing flock of Canadian geese. The slow-motion descent of bird poop, and the unsuspecting target of the gray-centered, white substance.

Show the weirdness, creepiness, quietness, cheeriness. But don’t let it be overwhelming, distracting, or overdone. If you say a forest, I’m thinking leaf-littered wood with a sun-filtering canopy. I don’t need to be told this in complete detail.

But, don’t leave your setting bare, ESPECIALLY not if it matters. Mention the crunching of leaves under someone’s foot, or feeling them crumble under your own. Don’t assume we know there’s a cemetery behind the church. Intrigue us.

Make use of specific imagery. Name the stores (and maybe even streets). Talk about the many potholes on the highway. The cops in their outdated Impalas.

And, don’t forget that TIME is integral to setting, too. We might be able to pick up that loose, flowing garments, arranged marriages, legal wife beatings, strong religious conviction and distinct gender roles is America ninety years ago. OR, it could be a rural town in present day Pakistan.

In all, setting encompasses where, when, diet, economy, community, social aspects, roles, society, laws, flora and fauna, pets, livestock…