A Word About Setting

Setting is an important part of any story of any length. Stories involve action and action needs some place to happen. That’s the setting. Setting has to involve more than just one sense. There may not be a breeze in the location where your action takes place, but there should be air. There should be temperature. There’s a world of difference between sitting and talking at a kitchen table and sitting in a living room or family room. Make your readers see the place in their mind’s eye. Make them feel the temperature of the room.

That said, you shouldn’t go heavily into the description to the point that it overpowers the action. Like everything in writing, there must be balance. You don’t want the action taking place in a vacuum, but you don’t want to bore your reader with too much description. Settings are the backdrop. A play would not be as good if there was no scenery, minimal or not. The written page even more so. A small touch here and there would be sufficient.

John stood before the fire, warming his hands, reveling in chasing the chill from his bones. A slight step behind him made him turn to see a baseball bat heading for his head.

You may not know where John is, but you know several things. One, it’s a chilly day. Two, he’s indoors and may have just entered. Third, someone apparently doesn’t like him. Let’s continue this.

The last thing John saw before he lost consciousness was the dust bunny next to the turned wood leg of the sofa.

You can see the thick dust under the sofa. Just add little touches and that paints a picture of the place a heavier description would never be able to match. Just a few details will break the action, but not by much.

Your setting should match the action. A high speed chase works better on crowded city streets than on a two lane highway in the middle of nowhere. There’s more room for things to go wrong. The reader can worry about the passers-by or the pursued or the pursuers, depending on who you have chasing who. Likewise, you wouldn’t have a peaceful fishing expedition on an interstate.

Describe your setting carefully. I often describe mine in a paragraph in the story notes. That allows me to visualize it before I add in any action. That’s more useful for town, houses and rooms, though. Describe them in minute detail in your notes. Then you can use those notes to intersperse a sentence here and there to describe it for your readers. Do that and you will find it easier to balance action and description.


I am not one who is comfortable talking about myself but here goes. I enjoy writing, family history, and reading. I decided to do this blog because I wanted to try something new. I decided to make it a weekly blog because I wasn't sure that I could keep up with a daily one, and monthly seemed like I was writing a magazine. I think I did ok with my choices. You'll notice that there are not a lot of graphics on my site. That's because there are graphics plastered everywhere on the Internet and those sites sometimes take forever to load. This blog is a place where you can kick back, relax and be ready to be amused. At least I hope I willbamuse you. This blog is on a variety of subjects from my ficitional cat agency, the FFL, which is monthly, to instructional blogs to editorials, which are my opinions only. I admit that I don't know everything and could be wrong -- I frequently am. Now, stop reading about me and read what I have to say!

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Posted in General Opinion, Writing Techniques

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© Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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