Monday, November 14, 2016

Writing about Setting

There's a type of 'character' in every book that's rarely discussed.  Even though it's often ignored, it can be a big part of the plot and has to be shown.  This 'character'?  The setting.

What would the setting include?

  • Five senses
  • Time
  • General or specific place
  • Geography
  • Inhabitants
  • Socioeconomics
  • Names of places/buildings
  • Exact location
  • Role in story
  • What the character sees
  • Other sensations
  • Personality of place

When writing about setting, there has to be a balance in what's shown.  Discussing setting can slow the pace of the story, yet set the scene at the same time.  But giving a bit of the place where the story is set can help the characters react more.  Many readers want to imagine what the setting looks like, so discussing it at length isn't necessary.

For example, if you read this:

Melody drove down the street in her open cherry red convertible with black interior, the cerulean sky bright above her.  The humid breeze tossed her hair to the side, while the smell of someone's nearby steak on the grill filled the air.  She grasped the wheel, rubbing her fingers against the cool leather. Melody licked her lips, the saltiness touching her taste buds.  She needed to get something to drink and fast.  Palm trees lined the street, and even they looked a bit parched.  Someone honked and she looked into the rear view mirror.  The guy in the car behind hers waved and made a motion like he was drinking.  He looked safe, driving a new black Mercedes.  Was he reading her mind or was he asking her out for a date?

Would it be better to read than this:

Melody drove down the street, the hot summer sun beating down into her open convertible.  A honking sound made her look into the rear view mirror.  The guy in the car behind hers made a motion like he was drinking.  Was he reading her mind or was he flirting?
I've covered all the senses in the first paragraph, but notice how wordy it is?  That slows the pace and gives more information than is really necessary.  Would Melody really notice all of that, or would she not even give it a thought?  Is the story about setting or is it about plot, of what happens to the character and what they think?

I have the same plot points in the second paragraph, but don't hit all the senses.  It's up to the reader to let their mind imagine the other things that might be happening.  It's more about plot than setting.

So when you're writing, I'd advise not overdoing the setting.  Yes, it's necessary, but it can bog down the story.

Have a great day!
SweetTale Books

Discover The Basic Elements of Setting In a Story
Four Ways to Bring Settings to Life
Tamari Guide for Writers: Setting

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