Writing Do’s and Don’ts: Settings

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Writing Setting

Original Art by Thomas Kinkade
Original Art by Thomas Kinkade

Setting is a very important aspect in a novel. A well-described setting can bring your story to life. Here’s some tips to writing a great setting for your book:

DO:

1. Learn your setting.

The first thing that you have to do before writing your setting is to imagine your setting. Is your setting realistic? Futuristic? Magical? What kinds of wildlife lives there? What is it like there? Try using your senses (sight/sound/smell/feel/etc) to describe certain aspects. Make sure it fits with the book’s genre and story. Jot down some ideas of what your setting looks like. Make yourself as familiar as your setting as you can–that way it will feel more natural to write in.

2. Show More, Tell Less.

Telling your reader about a setting in length can become boring. Try to show your surroundings. It will not only sound better but will also better engage your reader(s). Some telling is fine and even appropriate, but use it in moderation.

Telling: It felt cool outside.
Showing: A cool breeze rippled through my hair.

3. Get reader opinions.

If you are uncertain if your setting is working, have someone you trust read it over. Ask them to point out the strengths and weaknesses in your setting descriptions as well as if the setting works for the story’s content.

DON’T:

1. Write an unrealistic setting unless your goal is to make it unrealistic.

For example, if you are writing a historical novel, don’t include modern technology in the description.

2. “Tell” too much.

While it’s fine to tell some of your setting to your reader, don’t just tell or it’s likely that your description will become boring and tedious. I would recommend showing and telling in ways that only strengthen your descriptions and overall story.

3. Start your book with a ton of setting description.

While setting “sets” the scene of your book, don’t overdo it. If your first few novel pages are only filled with setting descriptions, you’re going to bore your reader.

jncahill_name

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