Five Tips for Writing Better Settings
The setting of your story holds a lot of weight. It will influence your characters and what sort of challenges they are faced with, and ultimately helps you attract more readers. You always want your setting to be interesting but relevant, and sometimes the struggle comes with describing this to your audience without being overbearing. Here are some suggestions on how to effectively paint your image in your readers’ minds.
Show Don’t Tell
One of the most off-putting things readers can come across is a huge chunk of text describing the setting. Elaborate descriptions about the plants, buildings and inhabitants soon become too much information to process, and often people don’t remember facts from these sorts of information dumps. It is best to avoid them and instead slowly weave the concepts into your story as you go. For example, instead of simply stating to the reader that your protagonist is in a forest by a lake, slowly show them that your hero is surrounded by blossoming trees and singing birds while they look at their reflection in the water.
What is Noticed First
When a character first walks into a new room or area, what stands out to them the most? Put yourself in their shoes and look around the scene and then write what you see. If an orphan walks into a millionaire’s house, they might focus on the dazzling chandelier first, and if the millionaire walks into the poor orphanage he might immediately smell the stench. By writing what is noticed first, and what is realised at a slower rate, you will help develop your characters as well as their surroundings.
Before you begin writing a scene, you should have an idea of the atmosphere you are trying to convey. Are you describing a cold and dark room in the middle of winter in which your protagonist is alone and afraid, or are they standing on hot sand while children play on the beach during summer? The character’s mood will influence the way they interpret their surroundings, as does the time of year, time of day, temperature, lighting, and more. Take this into account whenever you are writing about a new area and show this to your readers.
The Five Senses
The setting isn’t just about what a character can see. The way we describe things includes all five of our senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste. Writers often tend to just focus on the sight sense, but if you can include some of the other senses then you will be a step ahead at creating a more developed image for your readers.
Research is the key to writing an appropriate and believable setting. If you want the reader to truly enjoy your story, then you have to be realistic when describing your characters’ surroundings. If your protagonist lives near the sea, then make sure you include that salty smell, the sight of seaweed and the sound of gulls, as opposed to someone who lives in the middle of a large city as they will experience a completely different set of animals and plants. Think about the time period and the differences of then to now, such as clothing, vehicles and common jobs. If you are creating an entirely new world, then you will need to have all of these facts sorted out beforehand and you need to commit to them for the entire story. The more realistic your setting, the easier your story will be to read.
The setting is one of many key components of a story, and the stronger you make yours then the more enjoyable your story will be. These tips should help you to convey your chosen setting more effectively and therefore help to improve your writing!
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