The Setting: Treat it like another character

Doninington Grand _Prix 1937. Robin Hanson dri...
Image via Wikipedia

Whether your characters travel by foot, by camel, by 1969 silver-blue Maserati, or single prop engine they are going to be somewhere.  Your setting is an integral part of the story.  Don’t short change the details.

Setting will determine what people are wearing, what they eat, how they travel—either down the street or across borders, what music they hear, what birds are in the air, how the roads are constructed, how homes are designed, what they use to sit, how streets are lit, how homes are lit, what traffic is like…You get the idea…just about everything that is background to your story.

Just as you look for the details that exemplify your character’s responses and actions, you look for the details that make the setting work in the story.  By work I mean:  how the setting moves the story forward.

As you are writing description think about how the physicality of setting adds to the story.  This is your primary guideline as to how much description you are going to use.  Just as you will know more about your main characters’ backgrounds than you will use in the story, you will limit your use of description to what works in the story.

If your setting is any place other than your home town, the research that you do should be extensive.  In other words don’t just use google maps to learn where the streets are.  Know how people dress, what vehicles they drive, what people grab for a snack.  These are the details that bring your story to life.

3 thoughts on “The Setting: Treat it like another character

    1. Yes, the opposite is true. Especially in historical fiction the writer can be found displaying his or her knowledge of the times rather than forwarding the story. It is a delicate balance. That is why the touchstone is the story itself.

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