Thursday, May 23, 2013


Have you ever started reading a book and after a few pages asked yourself, “Where is this book taking place?”  That should never happen.  Setting is as important as the characters and the plot. It’s our job as the writer to develop the backdrop like we develop our characters. It gives us our sense of direction and it becomes the ambiance; the atmosphere, the environment, the mood, even the character of the world surrounding us.

Setting involves the senses.  Can you relate to the warmth of the sun or the ice cold water (sense of feel)?  What about the sweet juice of the peach or the soothing mint of the tea (sense of taste)?  Consider the click of a gun hammer or the snap of a twig (sense of hearing).  How about the burning smoke or sickening stench of a dead body (sense of smell)? Finally, there is the shadow moving across the wall or the flames of a campfire in the distance (sense of sight).  They all add to the setting of your book – they are the details that pull us in.

Writing is writing, whether it is suspense, historical, SiFi, thriller, or even contemporary.  Setting will be the prevailing forces of their world. These details bring your story alive.

Develop ways to uncover setting details that will fuel the world around your characters. 

Settings encompass more – You create setting when using authentic voice and idioms of the time period. Old maps, vanished villages, dead rivers, or historic plagues take on life as you unwrap clues and unfold the story. Use threads of character and sociological/political backdrops to tangle the lives of those you are developing.

Setting and character - Now, how do you infuse setting and character?  Again, the senses come to play.  Imagine yourself into a setting and make the character . . . feel it, smell it, hear it, taste it, and see it.  You do this and you have character and setting breathing together.


Jen Black said...

I do this all the time, naturally!
No - it would be fairer to say I try to do this all the time. Whether I succeed or not is a different matter!

Rita Karnopp said...

LOL . . . I know what you mean, Jen. Sometimes I stop and ask myself if I used the senses . . . all of them. I think it's the sense of smell that I have to remind myself to use in every story.

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