A Word About Setting

All stories take place somewhere. The action needs some place to happen which is where the setting comes in. Your basic horror story always takes place in remote places because it wouldn’t work anywhere else. For example, The Shining takes place in a snowbound, closed hotel. If the hotel wasn’t snowbound, the inhabitants would have access to help. So the setting in such a story is very important. The Shining would never happen in the heart of New York City. The setting enhances the plot.

The setting can also set the mood for a story. “It was a dark, and stormy night,” invokes a mood quite different from “It was midday and sun was shining brightly.” The former produces a sense of foreboding while the latter invokes warmth and happiness.

The setting can help or hinder a character in its quest for whatever it is the character wants or needs. After all, climbing a jagged mountain peak is vastly different from walking along a level paved road. Weather conditions can hep hinder an escape. That level paved road is more dangerous when wet or in icy conditions.

Mainly though, the setting is simply a place where the action takes place. It gives the character things to do. The setting ensures that you don’t have a series of disembodied talking heads. That’s important. Consider the following dialog.

“You don’t understand me,” Tina yelled at her boyfriend. “I’m trying to tell you something important.”

“Calm down, Tina,” Ted said. “I’m listening.”

“No you aren’t!”

On the surface, the dialog is fine. We know a couple is having an argument. Look deeper. Where are they? How does Tina know Ted isn’t listening to her? Ground this scene in a setting and let’s see what’s happening.

“You don’t understand me.” Tina stood in the kitchen and yelled at her boyfriend who stood at the stove.

“Calm down, Tina.” Ted offered her a cup of coffee. “I’m listening.” He turned to flip the omelet in the pan.
“No you aren’t”

See the difference? Ted and Tina are not just talking heads. They are doing something in a kitchen. Tina believes Ted is concentrating on the eggs rather than on her words. So we have answered both our questions about the scene. The setting told us what we needed to know about the scene.

Remember to have your character interact with their setting. It prevents what I call the Talking Head Syndrome and makes the story more believable. People live the physical world. Your fictional world should reflect that. Give your characters something to do. Give them things to hold, places to go and things to do. They will be more real to the readers.

That is the ultimate goal. Pull your readers into your fictional world by making that world familiar. Let them experience it. Remember the setting has an important role to play.


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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