How Important Is Setting In Your Novel?

How Important Is Setting In Your Novel?


A well-written setting literally sets your story in place and time. In this post, we answer the question: How important is setting in your novel?

How Important Is Setting In Your Novel?

Setting forms the backdrop of your story, but it is also the backbone. I deal with this in detail in our new setting workbook.

Where your story is set will dictate so many parts of the writing and plotting process, but the setting is just always there. So we don’t always appreciate what a powerful tool it can be. Have you ever watched green screen shots of movies? It serves as a good example of what our stories looks like when neglect setting. Watch this:

Hope that made you smile, but also reminded you to utilise your setting. Setting influences almost every aspect of your novel. It influences plot, theme, character, pace, dialogue, viewpoint, genre, and description.

Consider the following quotes about setting: 

  1. “Places are never just places in a piece of writing. If they are, the author has failed. Setting is not inert. It is activated by point of view.” ~Carmen Maria Machado
  2. “Most of my books are set in the American Midwest, where I have always lived. Midwesterners are lovely, down-to-earth people. The luxury of choosing this region as a setting is the endless supply of seasonal change images that accompany it; in addition to, the wide variety of settings, urban and rural, to choose from.”~ Leigh Michaels
  3. Ask yourself, What images do I hold of the people and the place I am about to study and how do I feel about those images? How did I come to study this setting at this time?
    Ask yourself about the needs you expect this setting to fulfil: Do I have an axe to grind? Do I have a mission? Am I looking for a cause or a community? Do I expect this study to help me resolve personal problems? Am I hoping to create a different self? What political assumptions do I have? What kinds of setting activities or subgroups might I avoid or discount because of who I am or what I believe?” ~Sherryl Kleinman
  4. “One of the biggest mistakes writers make in developing their story is neglecting the importance of setting. Character, plot, and dialogue are all essential to story progression; however, so is setting. It serves a purpose far beyond a backdrop for the action. Setting can frame mood, meaning, and thematic connotations.”~Haley Newlin

The Last Word 

As you can see setting is a powerful tool in your writer’s toolbox. If you want to learn more about setting and how to use it for your story,  buy: Setting Up The Setting Workbook

A Creative Life Online: How To Use The Internet As A Creative Tool by Mia Botha

Buy Mia’s book on how to write short stories: Write the crap out of it and other short story writing advice

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