Last week, I gave a recap of some of my posts about writing various scenes in your novel. But before you can write a scene, you need to know where your story is set.
The setting is the location where the events of a scene take place. This could be Las Angeles, a farm in Iowa, the White House, on a space ship, on another world or any of a thousand different places.
Selecting the right setting can have a significant impact on your story. Choosing where a story or even a scene takes place can add suspense or excitement to a theme. Changing the location of a scene can have it going from flat to intense.
Here are some questions you might want to consider as you determine the setting of your story.
Do you want a real or fictional setting?
Choosing a real setting can be easier because if it is a place others already know, they will bring their own knowledge and visuals of that place with them. You mention Las Vegas or Paris and even those who have not been there can imagine the lights and sounds of the Las Vegas strip or picture the Eiffel Tower.
But a fictional setting can give you the freedom to do whatever you want. You are not restricted to established governments, customs or landmarks. You don’t have to worry about accuracy as you are the one designing your city, country, or world.
Where are your favorite places?
If you love a certain place, you probably know it well. Your passion for it will certainly spill over into your writing and help create a feeling of familiarity and realism.
What mood do you want (or need) the story to have?
If you are writing a romance novel, you might pick a bright sunny beach but that same location won’t work for your vampire novel. The setting can enhance the mood or it can give all the wrong signals.
What location would enhance your story’s theme or conflict?
If you are writing a romance, picking one of the most romantic cities in the world may work well. And if you are writing about a war, your setting most likely will be in a war zone. But if you find our love story lacking conflict, try setting it somewhere else – like in the middle of a war.
Will your story span over more than one location?
If you are writing about life in a small town, your story likely will take place just there. But other works take place in multiple locations, which means more research (or more time creating those places).
What elements must your setting have?
Certain genres might require certain things. If you are writing about a war-torn country, then your novel most likely will be set in that country. If you are writing about vampires and werewolves, you will need dark alleys and possibly a forest.
What settings are common in your genre?
If most novels in your genre are set in a common place, it is a pretty good indication that readers will expect and look forward to this setting. This doesn’t mean you can’t go against the norm and try something new but doing so may alienate some readers.
How will your setting influence the story or your characters?
Knowing your location, being on familiar ground can be good for your character, but it can also be interesting to throw them into the unknown. Also, a hostile environment can add more conflict and tension to your novel. Where things happen changes everything. Don’t always go for the usual. Consider changing up where events occur. It might make all the difference in your story.