One of the perfect settings for a summer romance is the beach. The sand, ocean waves, and sunscreen scent is a landscape that marvels in the months of June, July, and August. A lot of possibility lives on the coast. It hides itself inside of curled seashells and dances in the jet stream wind of palms.
Another perfect setting for a story might be in the middle of the wilderness, something that would suit a thriller. The isolation and opportunity for all things demonic always seem to occur in the darkest places and spaces.
Based on your story, its genre and events, what should the setting be? How important is the setting? And how can you make a traditional setting sound brand new?
Some writers feel drawn to their setting before the plot is planned. Other writers determine their storyline before the setting is established. Either technique is fine and the purpose of the setting can be achieved either way. The purpose is how the story and setting relate, reflect, and compliment each other.
One way to create a relationship is to allow your character’s ambitions and personal goals to shine through. One scenario may be a firefighter finding residence in California, the state known for blazing wildfires. Another instance could be a family who strives for peace and solitude, finding comfort in a small Rhode Island neighborhood. A dedicated farmer could be drawn to the rolling Pennsylvania hills or even the west, the states located in Tornado Alley.
Another way the setting and storyline could create compliment, is by placing your characters in a fast-moving environment or a location that will offer a lot of opportunity for conflict and unfolding scenes to arise. The biggest of cities are often the go-to spaces for this idea.
Allow your setting to shine through other details of your book. In a few hundred page story, your setting should never be forgotten or ignored. Setting not only plays a role in the plot, but also offers concrete insight into the story at hand. Allow description of the setting to bring itself to the surface, through the thickest or thinnest of current conflict. This can be a nice way to remind the reader and pull them back into the physical space.
Once your setting is decided upon, there is a particular measure you can take in order to ensure amazing description and not have to frequently wonder what some of the best ways to describe the character’s surroundings are.
Creating a list in another document that features single words and phrases, highlighting many ways your setting can be described uniquely, will serve as a “cheat-sheet” for when description stumps. For example, if your novel takes place in the dense countryside, developing a list of color comparisons that can be sprinkled into your text, will help organize your abundance of ideas and creative thoughts. If your story is taking place in a cosmopolitan location, incorporating language that helps to bring action and vibrancy to the setting will be well received by the reader.
Keep in mind that all stories have more than one setting. Deciding upon one setting does not mean you are stuck with that location throughout your novel. The setting will always shift, smaller ones inside the much larger locations.
A book in which takes place in California, or any other state, will transition to various spots. There should be a travel element in your story, taking your reader from one place to the next. This can include the character’s residence, their school or workplace, a restaurant, store, park, party, other neighborhood, and more.
Also remember that a single location can influence and impact the outcome. A first date between a couple who has loved each other forever, will conclude differently at an ice cream parlor compared to a fast food joint, or after a homemade meal versus a fancy establishment tucked into town. Consider the differences and what offers the best material for your story.
There are aspects that must be considered when deciding on your setting. A setting, however, should not be overly pondered too intensely. Selecting the place that comes to mind first will likely suffice.
A setting does not have to be extravagant. It does not have to be overly whimsical and fancy, such as a kingdom in Scotland or terrace overlooking Paris. But, by all means, use these locations if it fits into your story perfectly.
As a writer, I often keep multiple lists that I refer to as my stories are created. This includes character names, interesting words and phrases, and settings I want to use in the future.
While I enjoy reading and writing beach-based stories, I hope to incorporate other scenes into my books. This includes New York City, Montana’s mountains, snowy Alaska, and others.
If you have traveled or visited somewhere exquisite, allow that experience to influence the setting. The best things to write about are the things we know about well.