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Creating a Setting: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

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Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

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Part of our story writing is showing the reader where the story takes place. The setting serves as the backdrop to everything that happens in a story, and contributes significantly to the atmosphere. It anchors both the action and the dialogue. When the reader can picture the setting clearly, they are more likely to be immersed in the story.

The setting you choose impacts your character. Whether it is based on a real town or a fictional one you’ve created, you need to be able to picture it perfectly so that your reader can too. The reader has to believe and see your story happen within your setting. This is similar to what we discussed with our characters; we need to know everything about the setting so we can describe it well. Having house plans stuck on your storyboard, photos of villages, beaches and offices can all help when it comes to describing the settings.

Describing the setting can be difficult to get right. We don’t want to info dump on our reader, it should be blended into our story. Easier said then done, you say! Well, here are some articles and podcasts that will help you on your way.

  1. https://jerryjenkins.com/setting-of-a-story/

Jerry Jenkins emphasises the need to make your setting part of the narrative, part of the story. The reader will absorb the scene without realising it. So instead of starting the scene telling the reader about the setting, weave it into the story. He demonstrates this simply with examples.

  1. https://www.writing-world.com/fiction/description.shtml

In this article, Anne Marble gives the writer eight tips to help bring your setting to life including: avoiding chunks of description, blending the description into the story, and filtering the setting through the eyes of your characters.

  1. https://www.writing-world.com/fiction/settings.shtml

Here, Moira Allen lays out four ways to help bring the setting to life. She encourages the writer to reveal the setting through motion, the character’s mood and level of experience and to use the senses to convey the setting.

  1. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-describe-setting-in-literature#what-is-setting-in-literature

This short article explains 5 tips for writing settings, including using the five senses, keeping it simple and focusing on showing not telling.

  1. https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/ajc-cwt-001/episodes/2016-07-14T00_00_00-07_00

This short podcast by the Creative Writer’s Toolbelt is all about immersing your reader into your setting. It explains six principles for the perfect setting, from research to credible settings, genre to sensory. These principals help the writer to create a credible, immersive and compelling setting for your story. This podcast is littered with excellent examples.

  1. https://writership.com/podcast-episodes/ep-137-setting

This brilliant podcast/article is all about strengthening your setting. By paying attention to the where and when, the mood of your setting, the effect on your character and premise of the story, you can strengthen your settings. It gives three exercises for the writer to apply to their own writing.

  1. https://www.well-storied.com/blog/how-to-craft-immersive-scene-setting

You can read or listen to this article. Kristen Kieffer tells the writer that our scenes are deeply intertwined with what’s happening in the narrative. The setting should be more than just the backdrop. She explains seven tips to help the writer when writing immersive setting descriptions.

Practising when writing our settings is the best advice. If you are a visual writer then stick up those village street plans, the photos of offices and parks. Google is brilliant for all those things. If you need a list of things to remember that you can refer to while writing your setting then follow that. Or a combination of both. Write about a setting that your fellow writer friends know well, without stating it, and see if they recognise it. Take bits from all this advice that suits you and apply it to your writing. I hope this week’s column has been helpful for you. If there is any particular writing topic you want me to cover, please get in touch.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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