Writers Write creates writing resources and shares writing tips. In this post, we look at three ways to use setting in your novel.
So often setting is overlooked by writers, when in fact it’s a wonderful colour to add to your storytelling palette.
Environment shapes character, informs plot and adds mood to your story. From the moral and religious background of your characters, to changing morals and weather, all of these form a crucible to forge out your narrative.
3 Ways To Use Setting In Your Novel
A blinding snow storm can hamper a search for a missing child. A long-held belief could prevent a woman from signing a medical release that could save her husband’s life. An impoverished country’s lack of infrastructure could help the spread of a deadly virus. You just have to scan the news to see how the world we live in changes radically every day—these changes could spark a topical new story.
Try this: Put your characters in a car going to a wedding. List at least 10 obstacles that could stop the car from reaching its destination.
Imagine a spoiled socialite forced to look after three young children. The domestic setting will be alien to her and she’ll have to learn all sorts of new rules—no pushing a stroller in stilettos for her. Or a corporate jet plunges into the Amazon and the businessmen have to learn how to survive a different jungle.
Try this: List all the rituals, like going to the corner shop or church that shaped your childhood in your hometown. How can you use this in a story?
If you wanted to create a sense of duality or contrast in your story, you could artfully use the setting to illustrate this. Say the hero’s girlfriend has just broken up with him. Why not put him in his darkened home while New Year’s fireworks explode and paint every window?
Try this: Take a scene from your book. Imagine you are a painter and need to colour this scene. Is it bluesy, smoke-filled sad? Or is it sun-filled, bright and hopeful?
When teaching Writers Write, delegates are encouraged to think of setting as a watermark that hovers in the background of every page. It adds something to your story—don’t ignore it.
If you’re looking for help with setting, buy our Setting Up The Setting Workbook.