Writing Step 3: Creating Your Setting
Written by: Ben Marroquin
Story setting refers to the location or locations in which your story takes place. Does your story take place in the city, town, mountains, island, underground, undersea, forest, space station, or on another world. Does their adventure take them through rural towns or an urban industrial city or a secret labyrinth? If it’s in the city, is it in an upscale neighborhood or the ghetto? Your setting is also influenced by the year in which the story takes place (Past, Present, or Future). Just be sure to remember that the location/setting in which your story takes place in should also affect the way in which your character and the characters he/she meets behave.
Here’s an article relating to setting:
Writing the Five Senses
From Niko Silvester,
Description in Creative Writing
Description is important in creative writing. We use it in fiction and non-fiction to set the scene, describe our characters and much more. In poetry, the right descriptive words can make the difference between an okay poem and an excellent one. One thing that some writers forget, though, is that description and details can be more than just visual.
Why Sensory Detail is Important
Information about what things we might encounter with our senses is vital in creative writing. This kind of detail is what brings a scene alive for the reader. Imagine reading a story in which nothing is said about what a setting or character looks like. Reading creates a picture in the reader’s mind, and it’s difficult to visualize something when we don’t know what we’re meant to be seeing.
Remembering to Use All Five Senses
So far I’ve talked mostly about seeing and visualizing–that is, using visual detail. ￼
When we think of detail, we tend to imagine first what a thing or place looks like. Your reader needs that information, too. But remember that we have five senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. All of these can come into a description, and each makes the thing you are describing seem more real to the reader. Consider the following examples:
I stepped into the room and looked around. The yellow paint was peeling off the walls in strips and bubbles, exposing the greyish wall beneath. The battered, deep brown wood floors were stained in several places with rust-coloured smears. They looked like old blood. Dust webs floated in the air, attached to the ceiling and fixtures somewhere in the shadows above my head. There was another door on the other side of the room, cracked open a few inches, but I couldn’t see what was beyond it.
How easy is it to visualize this room? Probably not too difficult. There are enough details that you can imagine what the room looks like; perhaps you’ve seen a similar room in real life and can fill in some of the missing details yourself. Notice, though, that the only detail I’ve given in this example is visual. You can see the room, but that’s all. Reading this passage and imagining it in your head is rather like watching television with the sound turned off, or like looking at the scene through a window.
I stepped into the room and coughed at the musty, mildewy smell that felt like it was already clogging my throat. I looked around. The yellow paint was peeling off the walls in strips and bubbles, exposing the greyish wall beneath. The battered, deep brown wood floors creaked as I stepped farther in. There were stains in several places on the wood, rust-coloured smears that smelled metallic when I bent to look more closely at them. They looked like old blood. Dust webs floated in the air, stirred by the faint breeze I could feel coming in the door behind me. They were attached to the ceiling and fixtures somewhere in the shadows above my head. Save for the groans of the floorboards beneath my feet, there was no sound. It was like the air smothered sounds and choked the breeze. I saw another door on the other side of the room, cracked open a few inches, but I couldn’t see what was beyond it, or hear if anyone was there. I felt another faint stir of air, this time from that second door, and there was the strong smell of mice.
This passage is much longer (it could probably be edited down some). Notice how I have added details of smell, touch, and sound. I could even have had my character breathe through her mouth to add taste to the rest of the detail. Now there is enough detail to imagine you’re actually in the room, instead of just looking at it. Can you see how Example Two is much more immersive than Example One?
As In All Things, Moderation
As with pretty much any aspect of writing, moderation is necessary with description. You don’t want to overload your reader with too much detail. If you spend all your time describing things, your reader is going to wonder whether or not anything actually happens. You can avoid this overload in several ways. First of all, consider what it is you are describing. If it is something that is not really central to the story or poem, you can mention only a few details (or perhaps only a single, unique detail). If, on the other hand, you are talking about a vital scene or a central character, more detail is necessary.
Another way to avoid over doing the detail is to not deliver it all at once. Instead of pausing to give a complete description of a person or place, only give the really important detail right away, and intersperse the rest with action, dialogue, your character’s thoughts or other elements. In fact, when you are dealing with characters, it is often best to reveal them to the reader over the whole length of the story or poem.
However you use your detail, just remember that most people have five senses and we use them all the time, even if we are not aware of it. ￼
For more articles on setting visit http://teenwriting.about.com/od/usecreatesetting/