5 Tips for Writing Setting

5 Tips by Anne Brees

Finding the balance for the right amount of setting can be difficult. Too much description and the plot disappears. Too little and you have characters floating through white space. Setting can add a lot to your story, but only when written correctly.

  • Use all five senses. This is a pretty standard tip when it comes to writing setting. That’s because it works. In your day, you notice a lot more things than the ones you see. It’s the same for your character. They notice the overly sweet perfume, the crinkle of fall leaves, the burst of sugar when eating powdered donuts, and the toddler’s laughter.
  • Less is more. When your character enters a setting that is familiar t0 readers, you don’t have to describe the picture. The reader already knows the picture. For example, if your character goes to the beach, don’t describe the waves or sand. The reader knows that these things are there already, so don’t waste more than a sentence. Instead describe the lone sunbather or maybe the hundreds of sunbather. Describe the elderly couples walking along the edge of the water or the loud college boys playing football. Write what your readers don’t know, not what what they already do.
  • Avoid info-dumps. There’s nothing that stops the plot and disconnects the reader like spending paragraphs describing the scenery. The truth is, the reader will probably end up skimming these paragraphs. Instead, incorporate a sentence or two of description every once in a while.
  • Start every new scene with a small description of setting. Within the first paragraphs of a new scene, designate the setting. It doesn’t have to be much, but just a sentence is fine. However, make it a habit to show the setting before you get to far into the action.
  • Describe it through your character’s eyes, not your eyes. Everyone sees the world a little differently, depending on their past experiences. After all, an mechanic and an artist would describe the same thing very differently. Describing the world through your character’s eyes is a great way to make your character come alive and connect more to the reader.

Finding the balance for the right amount of setting can be difficult. Pay attention to the way setting is described in some of your favorite books. In the end it comes down to practice.

What is your favorite setting you’ve written?

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