5 Tips for Building Your Story World

5 Tips by Anne Brees

Your story world adds a lot to the story, though you may not realize it. It molds your characters, shifts your plot, and gives your story those little details that makes it memorable. Once your story is written, it can be difficult to seamlessly weave in your story world. It’s better to decide where your story takes place before you write and see how it adds to the story.

  1. Is it a real or imaginary place? Both options offer a variety of pros and cons. If you chose a real place, you have the opportunity to introduce your readers to another part of the world. In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor captures you in the old city of Prague and it’s one of my favorite parts of that wonderful novel. You already have all the details of your setting, you just have to research to find them. However, that means that you have to write by the already set confines of the city. If you write an imaginary place, you get to create whatever you want to fit your plot. However, that means that you have to come up with all the details yourself. In doing this, your story world can be paper thin.
  2. What is the culture? What are the traditions of the culture? What are the popular holidays? What is the traditional and modern fashion? How do people talk? What restaurant does everyone go to for different moods? Where do the popular kids go to hang out? What about the unpopular kids?
  3. What is the history? Did someone famous live here? Did someone infamous live here? Did they have some little part in a war that no one knows about except for the residents of the town? Was something invented there? Did some famous explorer cross through? Are they proud of how little has happened there?
  4. What are they proud of? Do they have a killer milk shake at that little restaurant on the corner? Did a celebrity once stand on that street corner? Was the world’s biggest/smallest/longest/shortest/etc. ___ featured there?
  5. How does your character feel about their location? Does the character love the town as much as the other residents? Is there a bit of grudging pride for what you chose for the above question? Are they afraid to leave it? Can they not wait to get out of there as soon as possible?

What do you use to build your story world?


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?