Hello there. My name is M.A.Greene a writer reaching for publication. I am revising a YA Sci-fi/Fantasy novel and write short stories and poems. You can follow my writing journey on twitter at https://twitter.com/MAGreene996. This is a guest post of a teen writer on setting. Enjoy.
Making the Most out of Setting
One of the first things we learn when analyzing novels is dividing them into manageable chunks: Setting, plot and characters. The last two have been broken down into sub-sections upon sub-sections, but what about setting? Some mark it irrelevant, but it can greatly influence your story.
Take ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson, for example. It’s the story of villagers who act inhumanely towards one another for the sake of tradition. It wouldn’t have worked if the place was fancy and classy, or if it was in modern day. The prose gives a feeling of the past, and it works in favor of the story.
So how can we write a well-rounded setting? Here are a few things to keep in mind. Make sure to refer back to your genre when reading through, as it will affect the location of your story.
Setting isn’t just where the story takes place, but also when. It’s possibly one of the first things to think about before the actual world building. What is your world’s history, and where does your story fit into it? This can apply even if you’re writing about an average high school: cities always have a history, and this can be shown subtly throughout the course of your story. Timing becomes more important when your novel is set in the past, future or on another world entirely. For example, if your fantasy novel takes place in a kingdom which has just killed its tyrannous, violent king, there will be traces in your world of that king’s rule. Figure out when your story take place first, then find a physical location.
2. Make it realistic (to your story)
When finding a physical location, it’s best to make it realistic to your story. For example, if your story starts with average teenagers being chased by ghosts in a haunted house… why are they there? How did they even get there? It’s not normal for modern-day teenagers to be wandering in a haunted house, or for a haunted house to be abandoned there in the first place without an explanation. Figure out what is possible and what is a bit of a stretch, so that everything can be logical in your story.
Nothing can confuse readers more than an inconsistent setting. Unless you clearly state that your characters go in a completely different area, be sure to make everything the same. Seasons can of course change, but be sure to make the overall physical location the same. If your character comes back from six months in exile and finds their previous snow-covered, Arendelle-style city turned into a raging hot, desert… There’s got to be some sort of explanation. An extreme exaggeration, but good to keep in mind.
4. Don’t dump!
One of the most boring things readers can encounter in books is when the writer rambles on and on, describing the smallest, irrelevant details of their world. I get it: describing this wonderful kingdom you created and that you’re passionate about is incredible, because you want readers to visualize exactly what you’re seeing. But careful: too much info-dumping can make your reader lose interest in your story, making them mindlessly skim through the chapter or even worse: Put down the book. Don’t. Let. This. Happen.
So this is it. When done wrong, the setting can make the novel tedious to read through. But when done right, the novel will not only be a smooth read, but enjoyable as well. All the best of luck, and happy creating!
Lucia Brucoli is a middle school student working on her young adult sci-fi novel. She is also working to create a community of teen aspiring writers just like her, a community of people who support, encourage and help each other, working together to be officially called ‘authors’. In her free time, she enjoys watching t.v shows, reading, and of course writing.