Saturday, April 21, 2012

A-Z Challenge: S is for Setting

S is for Setting

How do you craft a believable setting?

For me, I tend to rely on the real world, adding magical and mythical details to something that is "normal". (I write modern fantasy.)

For others, world building is a quest: the search for the perfect imaginary plants and races to populate the world that the hero inhabits. (This is most common in high fantasy and science fiction.)

For still others, setting relies on accurate historical details, and the construction of a story world requires dedicated research. (I'm thinking of historical fiction, here.)

What, exactly, is setting?

I teach my students that setting is the time and place of the story.

This is physical location which might be broad (on earth), specific (in the small town called Williamston), or very specific (in the cupboard under the stairs).

Time could also be an entire era, or a day in the life of a character. Time can refer to time of day, season, or time period.

Some people think of setting as just the backdrop for a story. It can be that, but there's so much more power in a setting.

Why does setting matter?

Setting sets the mood: It was a dark and stormy night.

Setting establishes tone: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Setting provides backstory: Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious by this son of York.

Do you prefer specific settings, or settings with broad brushstrokes? Are the settings you write vastly different from the settings you like to read?

Visit the challenge blog and see what other people are talking about today. Can you believe the alphabet (and the month) is almost over?


  1. In general, I think I prefer the settings to be painted with broad brushstrokes, but this can vary depending on the type of book.

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Dana, I think that's a perfect way to describe my tastes, as well! Hope you are relaxing and enjoying, too!

  2. I'm at a total lose at what 'Z' might be. I will be around to see though. :)

    I write what might be historical fiction with modern fantasy. There is a bit of magic and a part or pieces of history have to fit.

    I loved Alice Hoffman's The Red Garden!

    Enjoy your rest day!

    1. I love Alice Hoffman, but I haven't read that one yet...adding it to my list!

      Do you worry about a lot of details for your setting, or do you let the reader fill in the blanks?