QUICK FIX: Breathe life into your setting
(Writers’ Forum, November 2007)
Help. I don’t know where I am!
Sound familiar? A sense of place is very important in any piece of writing but can be all too easily forgotten when concentrating on the other components of the story.
Setting doesn’t mean long descriptions - rather a weaving of the five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste into your writing. Concentrating on just one line relating to each of these can set a scene more accurately than pages of description your reader might get bored of.
Setting isn’t just a backdrop to the action. It’s a part of the action itself and continually changes as the story progresses.
• Sit in a café, a park, or even on the bus and note the changes around you in the space of just ten minutes.
• Notice people, lighting, scents and sound.
• Concentrate on just one of the senses – this will enable you to see it in all the more detail
• Take a short walk and jot down how the setting around you has a life of its own. Every second something will be different.
Remember that setting can be used to enhance the events of your story. Allow the setting to change as the story progresses.
• Do ominous clouds gather when something bad is about to happen?
• Does the sun come out at the end?
• Experiment with this – even putting together gothic castles with rainbows or happy endings and violent storms.
Don’t be afraid to use setting to lift you story from the ordinary to the fantastic.