The Story’s Setting can be a Dynamic Force

Setting is more than just the place where the action unfolds. It can be a compelling force that keeps the story in a readers’ mind years later. It can shape or mirror the unfolding drama, as a metaphor or with such intensity that it can be counted as one of the the characters.

Hillcrest - Bruce Noble Coll 3 001

Document the details of your setting–whether real or imagined–in exacting detail. Note sensory perceptions, the moods, weather, plants, animals, contours and changeability.

Document Impressions of the Setting

Here’s some things to consider as you make journal notes about your story’s locale:

  • What’s the weather like? (Describe the seasons, the light, wind patterns, storm events…)
  • What are the sounds, plants, smells and animals?
  •  What are the contours of this landscape? What kinds of structures are there, whether that’s mountains and trees, or a cityscape of rooming houses and restaurants?
  • Are there unique qualities to this place?
  • What are the social dynamics of the place? (What’s the norm in this community? Maybe it’s predominantly white & Christian?)
  • How does your character fit in–or perhaps influence her setting?
  • What does she think of the place?
  • What impact does this place have on her?
  • Is this setting an antagonistic force?
  • How has the broader world, or region, impacted this place? Does that have bearing on your story?

Thanks to Janet Burroway’s exceptional book Writing Fiction, for the germ of the ideas for this blog post.