Day 21 – How to Use Setting to Enhance a Story

 

Writers often undervalue setting. They see it merely as a description. But setting can be so much more. Descriptions of our setting can offer the opportunity to symbolize or foreshadow something in the story. Setting may be able to enhance the theme of the story, add subtext or show the reader something about the viewpoint of your ancestor’s personality.

Every time we open a new scene or start a chapter we need to anchor the reader in the setting.  This means fixing them within a setting so that they can picture the surroundings and be there in that space and time.

Start with:

  • Where are they?
  • When are they?
  • Who are they with?

Next, consider what makes the setting of your ancestor’s story different from any other place in the world. Look for what makes the setting unique and interesting. Don’t waste your words on describing the mundane, the expected. We should anticipate that there is a certain amount of description that your reader will imply into the story. Certainly, we can’t guarantee that every reader has been there. However, you can assume your reader has seen snow, or been to the desert or felt an ocean breeze. And even if they haven’t been there they’ve experienced it through their perception, not through your ancestor’s viewpoint.

Therefore, we also want to filter the setting through the eyes of your viewpoint character. Because no two people experience something, in the same way, this would also apply to the environment.

  • What is your ancestor’s perception of the setting?
  • Does the environment reflect the person who lives there?
  • Is it reflected in their emotions?
  • Does it provide conflict for them or a sense of comfort?
  • Is there anything important around them?
  • Any background noise?

As the writer, you have the opportunity to control what is noticed, how it is noticed, thereby controlling the reader’s experience.

Another use for setting is that it can hint at your ancestor’s backstory.

Is there something in the environment that reminds them of the past? Something in the past that is crucial to the storyline. Something that has happened to them in the past that holds them back from achieving their goal.

Make the reader want to go there.

Create a setting that will live in your reader’s mind. We’re trying to tap into this desire. If they want to go there, they will want to read the book.  You want them to feel they are part of the world. Even if your writing about a horrible place, there should be something wonderful about it that the readers wish they could see and experience.

Ultimately we want to create a setting that will live in your reader’s mind. We’re trying to tap into this desire. If they want to go there, they will want to read the book.  You want them to feel they are part of the world. Even if your writing about a horrible place, there should be something wonderful about it that the reader wishes they could see and experience.

Make sure you’ve found something about your world for readers to fall in love with as well as to fear.