Your Character’s World – Setting the Stage
All too often, setting is overlooked when writing a short story. I think part of it is the limited word count, and the other part is a tendency to assign very little importance to the setting.
So, I’d like to take a look at how your setting influences the other elements of your story. It’s quite possible to build your world just by ‘showing’ how it effects the other aspects of the story.
All too often, the setting is underutilized and doesn’t help character development when it is a vital part of who your character is, does, sounds, etc.
The setting of the story consists of eight overlapping elements. These elements work together to create a complete picture. They also influence almost every
1. Setting and Plot
The setting can be a driver for your plot. The geographical location, the language spoken, and the weather are all a part of your setting. They will drive your plot with the small details.
2. Setting and Character
Our characters are affected by where they grew up. Was it a small town or a big city? Does your character have an accent? Do they smoke? Were they exposed to drugs and violence while they were growing up? Did they grow up on a farm?
3. Setting and Viewpoint
While the viewpoint of your story may not seem dependent on the setting, it is vitally important to ‘show’ the viewpoint through the narrator’s eyes. Your narrator is either a character or just someone telling the story. What do they think of the setting?
4. Setting and Genre
Certain genres lead readers to expect certain things.
- Happy stories tend to have happy settings and unhappy stories tend to have darker settings.
- Love stories set in London make the rainy days and dark corners romantic.
- Crime drama in London uses those same rainy days to wash away evidence and dark corners as dangerous and threatening.
- Sci-fi and fantasy writers have their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to invent and reinvent so many elements, they have to think of new names for everything. World-building is a specialized technique that sci-fi and fantasy writers have to consider and work hard at.
- Historical fiction also demands a lot of research and fact checking. Make sure you get it right.
5. Setting and Dialogue
As students of creative writing, we were taught to ‘set the scene’ when we started a story. This usually meant paragraphs of setting description.
The short stories of the twenty-first century start with more of a bang, and that increases the need for dialogue to inform the reader of what is going on. Using descriptive words is nice, but if you can use what the characters are saying to help set the scene, it’s so much better.
Understanding the use of dialogue to help add setting allows you to save on your word count without sacrificing important information. Make your characters speak about their surroundings.
6. Setting and Pace
Setting the pace of your story is a learned technique. Learning to use your setting – such as the weather — can force your plot forward if, for example, the characters have to escape a threatening storm.
Are your characters in a hurry? Set the pace of urgency with traveling from place to place.
7. Setting and Description
Avoid overloading your readers:
Details, people, details, but not too many details. Knowing what to add and what to leave out of a description is one skill a writer must develop. It is up to your to decide if a detail is important to the story or not.
8. Setting and Change
The setting of your story may change, which will also change how your MC is reacting to external forces – the weather, locale, and how the character reacts all add to the layers of your story.