Character and plot development are critical, but the settings can be equally important. If developed well, a setting can be a character in its own right. See the review by Davyne DeSye of my second novel The Drift where she speaks about the town of Crystal Falls.
Just as your characters need to support and add to your story, so too do the settings you choose where we watch the events play out. For example, if Stephen King had chosen a different setting for Under the Dome, it would have been an entirely different read.
In this post, I will do my best to help you develop rich and vibrant settings that will bring your work to life.
There are two keys to a good setting: relevance and descriptiveness. Both are equally important. You want your readers to not only understand why your story is playing out in a particular setting but also be able to envision it with clarity. An approach like this adds depth and richness to your book.
Here are some suggestions on how to create vivid settings that will draw the reader in:
1. Make it relevant to your story!
If, for example, your book is about a freak blizzard, then San Francisco might be an acceptable choice; if the blizzard isn’t the focal point, then you should be writing about Colorado, Alaska, or Maine. The same is true on a smaller scale. If a central element of your story is escaping confinement, then make the setting a small place… perhaps a basement or a cellar.
2. Research, research, research!
Know your settings before you write about them. If your story takes place in London and Chicago, then you better be well versed in both cities before you start. Personally, I think the content is more descriptive if you’ve been there, but you can research anything on the Internet and become an “expert.”
3. Remember that a setting is more than just a place!
Include details about the weather, foliage, architecture, traffic, culture, anything that will draw the reader in and make their experience more realistic. If you’re writing about an event that takes place in Miami during the summer, then when you describe the sunset, it had better take place around 8:00 p.m. Likewise, if there are no cobblestone streets in the city you have chosen, then don’t write about cobblestone streets.
4. Stay consistent!
I’ve said this before and actually wrote a post on the subject (consistency), you must be consistent in your writing and this includes the setting. Don’t go from heavy snow to intense heat unless you have a reason. By the same token, if your setting is dark and musty, it needs to remain that way unless you have given us a good explanation for the change.
5. Small details can make a big impact!
Something as simple as a window flower box can stand out in a reader’s mind while the description of tall buildings towering over the city can go unnoticed. Keep it simple and try to make it a unique experience. This is particularly important when describing places we all know – New York City, Paris, Rome, Las Vegas, etc.
Okay, readers, I think that’s enough for now. I hope this helped. Sign up for my email list and keep reading. Best of luck in your writing endeavors.