Welcome to lesson 7 of Writing 101. This time we will be dealing with location/setting in your story. Location/setting is important in stories. It’s not as important as character or plot but it’s still important to authentically write your setting and in small ways,sometimes large mostly in poems, it can even add to your piece.
So without further ado, let’s talk setting and location …
1. I’ve Got A Great Character And A Great Plot. Isn’t That Enough? Is Setting Really That Important?
The honest answer is that in comparison to character and plot your setting isn’t as important. However it’s a nice cherry on top. For example, if you write a character from Ireland, it isn’t enough to just say they are from Ireland. You need to show an overview of what it means to be Irish. That doesn’t mean an old man in a pub sitting at the bar saying, “That young one is running around with all the men. She’s a right little hussy.” That’s a stereotype but you could do it because there is people like that everywhere. But what I more mean here is something like how catholicism was a strong force in Ireland but now it’s becoming an increasingly secular society so your character for example could be an atheist and you might have their parents from older Ireland not agreeing with that or likewise a catholic scared to seem behind the times because they believe in God. In short, let your setting bleed into your characters’ stories because in real-life the circumstances which surround us do impact on our lives and our views in varying ways.
2. Research, Research, Research!
I have heard of many writers visiting the countries where they are setting their novel. It’s well if one can do that but not every writer is financially able to do that. But thankfully we live in a world where all the information we need is on the internet and in books. You can even get a feel for what it’s like to be in a country or part of a country by watching YouTube clips of the country or part of the country. But do research places in some way whether that’s books, the internet or TV because it will make your writing so much more authentic and readers will feel like they are there with the characters even if the writer has never left their living-room.
3. Be Unpredictable
There is many novels and their location is very predictable. So many romances for example are set in sunny climates that would work just as well in a small building of flats anywhere. They are done for glamour and there’s nothing wrong with it but if you do that, the story still needs to be down-to-earth, the characters still can’t be caricatures and the glamour of the location can’t take over. Likewise many thrillers are set in cities that are thought of as gritty. There isn’t anything wrong with this either but it would be interesting to see a lot of them set in a sunny climate. The predictable setting is fine but vary it up a bit. That way, you’ll see new avenues you can go now with the story that are fresher than many stories and help yours stand out.
4. Time Is Setting’s Cousin
Going back to the example I said in the first section, 1950s’ Ireland would be completely different to today. So if you had an atheist in your story, they more than likely wouldn’t say they were openly. They might feel guilty about it or they might be ahead of their time and know it’s fine to be themselves but they more than likely wouldn’t say it out. Fast-forward to now and they could be as free to be themselves as they wanted to be. So time needs to compliment setting and vice versa. After all time is a huge part of your setting.
5. Have Central Settings
This is good news. Yes, you’ll have to know these places very well but the good thing is you get to choose the places so pick places that you’ll be comfortable writing a lot about. Usually it’s the character’s home and work place/college/where they volunteer and somewhere they like to go like a pub or a cafe. Setting is not a major part of stories but it does add a consistency and a realness to your work. We all have certain places where we spend a lot of our time and your readers will get familiar with the places your characters spends most of their time in. In a sense their house, etc … are like very minor characters but still they add much needed detail to the overall story.
Key Points Summary
- Location/setting is not as important as character or plot but it is important in it’s own right.
- Your setting gives your story an overview and helps your readers understand the circumstances that your character faces.
- Let your setting bleed into your characters’ stories because in real-life the circumstances which surround us do impact on our lives and our views in varying ways.
- Research your setting/location very well. Use the resources which are at your disposal like books, the internet and TV to help you to write your setting authentically.
- Predictable settings for genres are fine but unpredictable ones can also freshen your work up.
- Make sure you factor time into your location.
- Work hardest on your central settings. Your readers will begin to associate your characters with these settings.