Oct 20, 2013 - fiction writing    No Comments

Where–how to make and use great settings in fiction

Setting . . . ..

Once, I thought it was simple.  Just put your characters in a place.  That’s it.

Does it really matter where that place is?

It does.  Or rather, it can, and if you use it well, it will matter very much.

Let’s look at some settings most of us know. Look at Harry Potter.  Hogwarts is an essential setting.  Without it and all its interesting details, well, can you even imagine Harry Potter studying in any other place?

Harry Potter goes to East High School, or even Hollywood Arts High School?

taken by Klearchos Kapoutsis

taken by Klearchos Kapoutsis

I could go on and on here, so let me just mention one more example.  Some of my favorite books and now movies, are the Lord of the Rings.  This tale has been called a Milieu Story, where the setting is the most important aspect of the story, and I suppose that is fair–if you take away Middle Earth, you do not have much left, maybe.

But let us assume that you do not want the setting to carry this much weight, or at best, you want the set

ting to not be the strongest feature of your writing.

What are some good settings?  How can we use them?  Naturally, it depends on your story.

In my story that I am working on, most of the first half happens within a large tower.  I did not really plan to confine it so much, but now, I am glad that I did so.  However, I am continually tweaking and improving the description of the tower because, it too, plays a role in the story.

boring setting, another forest

A boring setting, another forest

Likewise, it is best to think through your scenes and ideas.  Is there a setting or settings that should be emphasized or brought to life?  Boring settings do little for a story.

One example of a boring setting is forests.  They are in almost every fantasy story, and they seem to be always the same, or very similar.  A few stories do a good job with them–the Dark Forest in Harry Potter is okay, though confusing, and Tolkein’s Fangorn is good.

However, forests are usually just that–forests.  Boring.

That is an example of a setting that needs work.

We should think about our settings and work to make them work well.  The more vivid and interesting the setting, the better, as long as they do not overpower the story itself.

Next time, I’ll talk about how to get ideas for great settings.


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