Tag Archive - setting

5 Tips to Writing about Place in Fiction

Today’s guest post is by Yasmin Chopin.

I am often asked, ‘What is place writing?’ As a field of study, it is frequently linked with the more familiar genres of nature writing, memoir, travel writing, and autobiography. Place can be home, or somewhere you visit, or somewhere you’re traveling through.

Writing place in fiction is a skill worth developing. When place is an essential part of the story, it should be as authentic and whole as any protagonist. When place is more than a backdrop, it takes on a symbolic role that can be portrayed in a variety of ways, from the naming of place to its architecture and weather.

Writing place is most successful when the author has had personal experience of it. Then it can be adapted for the story, embroidered, and renamed under the creator’s pen.

Spend time on the page to accentuate difference. Sometimes it is difficult to find an entry point, so look for a detail in the big picture and expand from there. Treat places like personalities, learn to love them, see them clearly in your mind’s eye, dress them, give them conflicting characteristics, and put them through hell and back.

Maps have become familiar paratextual material; believability is enhanced by geography. As any fan of Thomas Hardy knows, a map can be a helpful device for the reader to keep track. In fact, Hardy drew his own as a way of managing his complicated plots. When he finished Return of the Native, he posted his sketch to the publisher and insisted it be included in the printed volume.

He was not the first to use cartographic drawings to sell a book, and I am not suggesting that you must practice illustration or that your characters should follow a map in their story, but if you develop place to a significant degree in your narrative, the reader might enjoy the opportunity to dive a bit deeper and dwell in the mystery of a graphic depiction. Continue Reading…

12 Questions to Ask Your Character to Bring Setting to Life

Too often, writers ignore setting. Look—we live in the physical world. We respond to and interact with every single setting we are in.

External elements affect us, our mood, our health, our perspective. Weather, quality of light, feel of the air, smells … all factors that contribute.

Fiction writers are all about manipulating readers. We want our readers to feel certain things, come to specific conclusions. We should know what our objectives are for every scene. So taking time to decide on setting is important and shouldn’t be overlooked.

When choosing settings for your scenes, you want to think about the kinds of places that will allow the emotions, needs, dreams, and fears of your characters to come out. Certain places will trigger these things to come to the surface and will stir memories.

Your character has a past, and even if she never visits any of the places in her past in your novel, other places can draw out feelings and memories. This happens to us all the time.

Of course, if you are putting your characters in places they’ve been before, or they are living in the same town their whole life, those memories and feelings are closer to the surface. The point it, you want to use your setting to help bring out your themes, drive your plot, and reveal character. You don’t have to do this, but by ignoring setting you are missing out on a great tool in your writer’s toolbox that you can use in a powerful way.

Continue Reading…

The Challenge of Creating Powerful Settings

Setting is so often overlooked or pushed to the background in fiction. But it is, perhaps, one of the most powerful elements of a story. If you aren’t thinking carefully about the settings in your story, I hope you’ll think again. Setting isn’t just where your overall story is set, it’s all those locations you set invidual scenes in.

We spend a lot of our time at work and home, and occasionally at those restaurants and coffee shops, but that is ordinary life. And while we want to show our characters in their ordinary lives (at least sometimes), readers don’t want “boring.” Continue Reading…

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