All About Settings In Your Story
In fictional stories, in which characters and plot typically take centre stage, settings are often relegated to the background. But a story’s setting is not just a backdrop; it can be a dynamic force that shapes characters, emotions, and the narrative itself. The challenging task of a fiction writer is to immerse her readers into her story.
Characters have to be somewhere while they are talking, thinking, and behaving. Settings that immerse readers in a sensory experience will spark emotion in your readers, so let’s look at 6 tips to help you craft emotionally charged settings.
1) Utilise Setting as a Character
Imagine your setting as a character in your story, with its own personality, history, and influence. Just as characters evolve and undergo change, your setting should also play a role in the story’s development. The setting can act as a powerful metaphor, enhancing the themes and emotions of your story.
The house itself watched him. The windows stared at him as he passed, whispering secrets among themselves. The creak of the porch steps, the sigh of the old oak door—these were the voices of the house, and they welcomed him home.
2) Go Deep into Point of View
Deep point of view is like zooming in with a camera lens, allowing readers to experience the world through your protagonist’s senses, emotions, and thoughts. When describing the setting, filter it through your character’s perspective. Show what they see, feel, smell, and touch, and let these sensory details convey their emotional state. This deepens the reader’s connection with both the character and the setting.
The wind howled through the cracks in the cabin walls, making the firelight dance and casting eerie shadows. Sarah’s heart raced as she huddled closer to the dying embers, the darkness outside pressing in on her.
3) Develop Connected Settings
Create settings that hold emotional value for your characters. These “connected settings” are places with personal significance, whether through past experiences, memories, or symbolic importance. When your character revisits such a place, it can trigger powerful emotions and memories, driving the narrative forward and revealing their inner conflicts.
Standing on the shore where they had shared their first kiss, Mark felt the weight of his broken promises. The waves lapped at his feet, carrying away fragments of their lost love.
4) Manipulate Mood
Set the mood of your scenes by choosing sensory descriptions that evoke specific emotions. Weather, lighting, and the general ambience of a place can all contribute to the emotional tone of a scene. Use these elements to enhance the emotional impact of your storytelling.
The lightning split the sky, illuminating the desolate landscape. Jane’s footsteps echoed through the empty streets, each clap of thunder matching the turmoil in her heart.
5) Create Conflict with Setting
Consider how your setting can introduce or intensify conflict in your story. A well-chosen location can create obstacles, delays, or complications that challenge your characters. These challenges can elevate the stakes and keep readers engaged.
Trapped in the narrow alley, Jake could hear the sirens approaching. The towering walls of brick and concrete closed in on him, a suffocating reminder of his desperation and the hopelessness of his situation.
6) Use Setting as an Amplifier
Think of your setting as an amplifier for your character’s growth and decisions. Surround him with emotional triggers that push him toward crucial choices or actions. The setting should reflect the character’s internal struggle and, at times, offer a way to resolve it.
Under the shade of the ancient oak tree, Jenny finally found the courage to confront her past. The whispering leaves and the warmth of the sun on her face reassured her that healing was possible.
Setting is not just a backdrop; it’s a dynamic force that can elevate your storytelling to new heights. Consider the emotional value, mood, and conflict that each setting brings to your story. By doing so, you’ll create a more emotionally charged narrative that resonates with your readers on a profound level.
BIO: C.S. Lakin is an award-winning author of more than 30 books, fiction and nonfiction (which includes more than 10 books in her Writer’s Toolbox series). Her online video courses at Writing for Life Workshops have helped more than 5,000 fiction writers improve their craft. To go deep into creating great settings and evoking emotions in your characters, and to learn essential technique, enroll in Lakin’s courses Crafting Powerful Settings and Emotional Mastery for Fiction Writers.Her blog Live Write Thrive has more than 1 million words of instruction for writers, so hop on over and level-up your writing!