Plot, character, and setting are the three elements that make up every story. Of course, their importance within each story varies, but getting them right is often the difference between a great reading experience and a book that is put on the shelf and forgotten.
The setting is one element that many writers struggle to bring to life. Outside of science fiction and fantasy, the setting takes on a smaller role in most novels. There are times that the setting of a book isn’t mentioned at all. However, including an immersive setting is a great way to draw readers into the story. Here are four tips for making an exciting and immersive setting.
1. Treat Setting as a Character
Whether your story takes place in a faraway galaxy on an imagined planet, a small New England town, or the streets of New York City, the setting should feel alive.
Write a character sketch of your setting. What does it look like? What is its history and background? How is it related to the protagonist and antagonist of your story? How do your character’s actions affect the setting of the story? How does the setting change as your protagonist follows their arc?
Treating your setting like a character will help you bring it to life and create the kind of immersive reading experience that will leave your readers hungry for more.
2. Find Ways to Include Setting in Your Plot
If your story takes place in an authentic setting, what landmarks can be placed in the story? For example, can your lovers have a cute meet atop the Empire State Building? Can your hero hide in the Appalachian mountains to avoid apprehension while he tries to prove his innocence? Can your villain attempt to blow up Big Ben to make a political point?
If you are working with a fictional setting, build that setting to enhance the story’s plot. Think of the classic science fiction book Dune. The desert setting is vital to every aspect of the plot from the quirks of the people to the dangers the characters face. Create a setting with obstacles for your characters to overcome and rewards for a triumph that naturally flow from that setting.
3. Choose the Setting Carefully
Too many authors are so focused on the plot and characters of their story that they don’t care much about choosing the setting. As a result, they may fail to describe where the action is taking place or give readers only the vaguest notion of where the characters live and interact. The outlining phase of writing is a great time to consider where the characters will spend the story.
What setting is most conducive to the story? What setting would be unexpected?
If the writer uses a real setting, it is also wise for them to consider places they know or places they can easily research.
If the author is creating a setting, they should be sure to consider what makes it different. For example, how is the small town in their book different from every other small town in the world? Fictional settings have so much creative space. Take advantage of that to make the setting memorable for readers.
4. Include a Map
If you are writing a complex setting, consider adding a map to your book. Especially in a made-up location, maps make it easy for readers to understand where the story is taking place and follow the characters’ movements. Having a custom illustrated map can also help you, as an author, navigate the setting of your world and see fresh opportunities for using your setting in new and creative ways.
Have you written an amazing story with rich characters, an intense plot, and a dynamic setting?
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