~ Fully enter the world you are creating
~ Connect emotionally with your characters
“All you need to build your setting is in the world around you. Observe, observe, observe.” — Elizabeth Nunez, January 2017 Writer’s Digest magazine.
“. . . like me, you probably wanted to be a writer because you found a lot of joy and pleasure by making up stories in your head. I love living in my imagination—so much so that when I was younger, my siblings would say: ‘Divide everything Elizabeth tells you in half. One half is true and the other is make-believe.’”
Can you relate to that? I bet you can!
“The emotions and conflicts your characters experience can be made more vivid by the setting you choose.”
Nunez gives examples of stories enhanced by setting:
The Sea by John Banville, which opens with “a strange tide, a morning under a milky sky, a bay that swelled and swelled, rising to unheard-of heights. With that beginning, the mood is established for Banville’s moving story about a man who loses his beloved wife to cancer and retraces his past to a seaside cottage, hoping for respite from his grief.”
Middlemarch by Georg Eliot contains “a setting that contrasts with . . . character’s emotions.”
“When the two lovers finally come together, there is not brilliant sunshine, but instead a burst of thunder and lightning. The effect is to convey to the reader the intensity of the passion between the two characters.”
How to set your story in a place you have never been? The obvious answer is to go there. If that isn’t possible, research using tools that give detailed descriptions: Google Earth to see the site, Wikipedia to learn about weather, geographical, historical details. Access newspapers and magazine articles for information using microfiche records (available at libraries). Interview people who lived there. Watch movies. Use your creative imagination to research as much as possible. But don’t spend all your time researching. Remember to take time to write!
Blog posts about using sensory detail: