Creating the Story: Setting

I know, I’m a day late. Well, perhaps you’re not aware of it, but I’m trying to get my blog written on a Saturday. Not sure what happened yesterday, but time got away from me.

Anyway, I’m here today to talk about the story setting. There are tons of choices when it comes to a setting and, in some respects, it depends on the type of story you’re writing. For instance, if writing a sci-fi or fantasy the setting is more likely to be another planet, an Earth in the past or future, or a world that is slightly twisted or different in some way. What all these places have in common, though, is that they have to seem real to the reader.

In my first novel I chose to place my characters in a city that actually existed and at the present time, but you have to be careful with this because readers are watchful and they’ll catch you out. To do this it’s best if you have a familiarity with the place or, if you can afford it, take a trip and spend a few weeks there. Now, that’s not to say you want to necessarily use individually owned shops, restaurants, etc… that actually exist because this can get sticky and might even involve permissions. It is fine, however, to mention street names, perhaps churches, natural landmarks, business parks, etc..If a reader has been to the town and they recognize a street name the story becomes that much more real to them.

In some respects, I found it easier to invent my own village, which I did in my second novel. This leaves you having to come up with the layout of the place and street names. You also have to come up with shops, hotels, restaurants, pubs, churches, schools, or whatever else your town needs. Obviously, only the businesses your character becomes familiar with, places that enter the story, need to be described in some detail.

Now that that’s been said, you’ll need to stock those businesses with people. Technically, these are considered secondary characters, but their mannerisms, quirks, conversations, add to the feel of the place so, in some ways, I consider them part of the setting.

All right, so you have some ideas for street name and shops, but you can’t entirely pull them from your imagination. That is to say, if your story takes place in a small town in Scotland, for instance, your businesses have to mirror that. There probably wouldn’t be a Baptist church, there won’t be a Wall-mart, and there will be pubs and a take away or two. If the town is too small, there would probably be a primary school, but the older kids might have to be bussed to a bigger place for secondary school. Do a bit of research first and save yourself trouble later.

You’ll have to think about natural elements as well. To some extent this can be made up, but if the region you’re placing your story in doesn’t have a large river or grow any kind of evergreen tree, you don’t want to add these in. Again, do a bit of research to find out what the landscape is like and what type of wildlife resides in the area. It’s these little details that really bring  a place to life. Also, keep the climate in mind and the time of the year. You won’t want your characters wearing shorts and a t-shirt when the temperature should be in the  mid 40s.

Once you have a solid setting you can start working on the story plot itself, which I will be covering in my next couple of writing blogs.

Good writing.

Rose Connelly

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