6 Quick Fixes For Adding Setting To Your Story

6 Quick Fixes For Adding Setting To Your Story


What do you do when you’ve finished your first draft and realise that you haven’t paid enough attention to setting? Here are six quick fixes for adding setting to your story.

Setting adds depth and detail to your story and helps to ground the characters. Imagine, for a moment watching a movie on a green screen. It’s well, really green. That is what it’s like if you don’t include setting. The amount and detail of setting you need also depends on your genre. Some genres require more setting detail, but any story will be strengthened by a solid setting.

A Reminder:

Setting includes the physical location, the era, the objects and things, the duration of the story, the weather, the culture, and the geography. That’s a lot and you won’t try to add all of this to every scene, but it’ll be good to at least consider it.

A note: take it scene by scene. It’ll make the rewrite less overwhelming when you consider the purpose of each scene individually and how it can strengthen or relate to your setting.

If you’re looking for help with setting, buy our Setting Up The Setting Workbook.

Okay, so now you need to add setting to your scene. 

6 Quick Fixes For Adding Setting To Your Story

  1. Decide where the character is. This seems obvious, but often when we’re inside the character’s head and privy to their thoughts we forget that the character has a body that occupies space and moves while they are thinking. Is your character in the car, in a queue at the bank or viewing a house that is for sale? At times, it can be to your advantage to keep the setting a mystery, but then that will be a conscious decision and not an oversight.
  2. Sensory details. Once you know where the character is you can start adding sensory details. Simply make a few notes. What does the character tastesmell, think, heartouch, and see in the setting? Is there a news report on the radio while they are driving? Is the AC broken at the bank? Does the house that is on sale smell funny?
  3. How many times has the character visited this particular place? Is this the first time your character walks into a certain setting? If it is they’ll notice and perhaps inventory the details, but if it is a setting that they are very familiar with they’ll only notice if something is different. Familiarity might be why you’ve left out the setting.
  4. Interaction and dialogue. A simple way to convey setting in a scene is to make your characters talk about the setting or interact with setting. Have them open a window, stub their toe, or sneak a peek into the cupboard.
  5. How does your character feel about the setting? If your character is indifferent to the setting they will not give it much thought, but if the setting carries emotional significance, you’ll need to spend a bit more time on the details. A positive or negative emotion will add to the tone of the piece.
  6. What does the reader need to know? It is important that the setting details enhance the scene and move the plot forward. We don’t add setting just for setting’s sake. What is the purpose of the setting description? Does the detail show the socio-economic circumstances of the hero? Does the crack in the floor lead to a clue? Make your details do double duty.

The Last Word

Remember, setting details should be weaved into the narrative. Try to avoid writing long paragraphs of description that does not advance the story, even if they are beautiful descriptions.

If you’re looking for help with setting, buy our Setting Up The Setting Workbook.

Mia Botha by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

  1. Where Does Conflict Come From In Fiction?
  2. 30 Writing Prompts For April 2021
  3. How To Use Setting As A Source Of Conflict
  4. What Romance Writers Can Learn From Watching Bridgerton
  5. A Sneak Peek At The Dialogue Workbook
  6. 7 Things You Can Do With Dialogue In A Story
  7. Writers Talk 5 | Short Stories

If you’re looking for help with setting, buy our Setting Up The Setting Workbook.