Well hello, it’s great to see you back again. We had a very interesting and varied discussion last night on the topic of ‘Setting’ in your stories. The Finding Your Writers Voice community gathered together and whizzed through three articles and threw in some left fielders from The Library of Babel, magical realism, antagonistic settings and just to add some spice, Lilith and Nephilims! Quite the spin around some literary gems and as always, for me anyway, lots of new material and ideas.
We started with an easy casual walk through the world of story setting, ‘Setting 101’ if will from Masterclass. Some basic and common sense stuff for any writer, the bread and butter as it were! Sometimes common sense is not common practice so we delved in to ensure we all started from the beginning.
The article introduced us to five elements of ‘Setting’:
- Geographical location
- Physical Location
- Physical Environment
- Time Period
- Social & Cultural Environment
It then gave three examples of what this looks like and we got a little more focused on one of the examples than the others.
The story goes that Jack London spent nearly a year in the wilderness of the Yukon and his observations informed a lot of the book he subsequently wrote. The question for the group was would today’s writers go through such hardship to research their setting or have we become too soft these days to endure such commitment? We also asked, what came first, the story or the setting?
The Masterclass article ends by giving another five tips, this time on choosing a setting for your story;
- Decide if your story needs a specific setting
- Decide if your setting is a real or imagined place
- Find a setting that supports the action
- Pick a setting that supports character actions and development
- Research your setting
We then moved on to Writersdigest and another three tips for picking the perfect setting for your novel. We were moving from 101 to 102!
- Choose some unique location
- Research the heck out of it
- Get weird with it
Getting weird with it is an interesting one to delve into and brainstorm a bit for your unique setting. The example of the phallic-shaped rocks in the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park Utah was shared in the article and in case you think they don’t exist think again!
We then moved on to the final article of the evening, from Helpingwritersbecomeauthors, titled ’16 Ways to Make Your Setting a Character in Its Own Right’. Don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as you think, the piece flows easily, and there was in effect three main points;
- What is Your Settings Backstory?
- How Will This Setting Contribute to the Plot?
- Who is the Typical resident of This Setting?
Within each question, there are multiple additional questions for you to really stretch your understanding of your setting, its people and its own story.
Arguably the best few lines from the article are at the end, a great piece of advice.
Ultimately, understanding how to make your setting a character in its own right is all about creating a setting that is populated with vibrant and realized people—and then using that setting as a meaningful piece with the overall thematic representation of your plot and character.K.M. Weiland
There was one final article that we didn’t get around to from Reedsy, ‘Setting of a Story, What is It? And Who to Write It.’. You can explore this one for yourself.
Some additional call-outs and discussion points we covered
- Did you know ‘A Few Good Men’ was written on napkins?
- Who writes their first draft on paper?
- Quentin Tarantino writes with his index finger! Really?
- Oh for a mechanical keyboard, just not too expensive!
- Real world and generic settings
- Using setting as a way of enhancing of how the characters is feeling on the inside
- Grapes of Wrath and how it was researched by John Steinbeck
- How did living in Ireland influence and inspire Ray Bradbury?
- The gateway to the Celtic underworld is through water!
- Researching Kite Runner
- How to use mysterious islands in your story?
- CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein and their inspiration from Christian theology and arguments!
- The Dead Sea Scrolls
- Is Maleficent a more interesting character then Snow White?
- Characters who become too villainous can become comic, a good example of how to handle this skilfully is the recent film, Joker
- What shapes settings?
- A couple of links related to The Library of Bable’,
- Would someone not from your culture understand your story and how you’ve written it?
That’s it for this week fellow writers, we got through a lot! Wishing you a creative week and remember the number one reason for author’s not reaching their goals is that they don’t finish their story! Keep up the good work 🙂