- Sense of time (e.g., day or night)
- Geographic boundaries (e.g., the mountains or oceans or beaches or prairies?)
- Character/nature of the setting (e.g., the colors and smells and foliage; are we in a jungle or a forest, city or village; on a ranch or in a high-rise apartment?)
- Lifestyle/season of story (i.e., business or home setting; formal or informal; workaday world or life of luxury?)
- Animals/fauna (e.g., gorillas in the jungle or house full of domestic cats; beloved pets or dangerous wildlife; human-animal relationships intimate or confrontational?)Family/social setting (e.g., suburban home of married couple or Manhattan condo of a divorced father; orphanage/reform school or dwelling of 10 siblings; sprawling estates or urban projects?)
Will all of these things appear in your story in detail? Not likely. However, they are the chief elements of setting for any story because they are those components God included when He created the world. And even if you’re setting this on another planet, someone had to create all of it. Why not God? Our world certainly proves He’s qualified for the job!
There's an old cliché: "All the world's a stage." Yes, very true. So open your eyes and observe; carefully consider the best setting in which to tell your story. Then get to work and start jotting down all the most interesting aspects of that setting, those things you can use throughout the storytelling. You might have to do this research via the Internet, since it's possible you can't actually go to the heart of India or walk along the northern shores of the Siberian continent. Still, the information is there if you look for it, and feel free to use your imagination to fill in the gaps. That's what writers do. And please don't feel you have to reveal all of it in the first few pages. Better to pepper the setting throughout the story where it feels appropriate, like you might season a slow-cooked roast. That way, the reader can sample a bit of the setting with every, delectable bite.
Copyright © 2008 by Jon Guenther. Reprinted with permission of the author. All rights reserved.