Hi! Sherry Kyle here, writing from my laptop in central California.
By definition, setting is the period and place of a story. It gives a story authenticity and gives the characters and plot believability. In other words, your setting is the large frame, which defines the surrounding for your characters.
When I wrote my first published novel, it didn’t take long to decide where I wanted my story to take place. I lived near a charming coastal town that would, in my opinion, be a wonderful backdrop for the contemporary fiction world I wanted to create.
With its shops, restaurants, and eclectic mix of houses overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Capitola, California would not only be another character, but also would give the story another layer. And who doesn’t enjoy a beach read?
Consider these things when picking an imaginary or real town for your story:
- Place your characters in a setting that is right for them. Are they wealthy? Poor? Or middle-class? Do they live in a mobile home or a mansion? Present time? Or do they live in a different era? Maybe your characters are from an alternate reality.
- Weave in the place and time period in the first chapter. A good technique is to use situations and atmosphere to translate setting. Another method is to sprinkle in a few lines of narrative here and there.
- Paint a picture through the use of your character’s actions. Use all five senses—hear, sight, smell, taste, and touch.
- Ground each scene. Allow the characters and action to determine the setting, and always keep the reader up to date when changes occur.
If you choose a real setting, research specific details so that it is authentic. Imaginary places must also be detailed, but you have the opportunity to create the surroundings for your characters.
The setting’s goal is to be believable, consistent, and intriguing in order to make the character’s actions and choices understandable, as well as help the plot make sense.
"In certain fiction, the setting lives from the very first pages. Such places not only feel extremely real, they are dynamic. They change. They affect the characters in the story. They become metaphors, possibly even actors in the drama." - Donald Maass
Since writing Delivered with Love, I made a Youtube video of Capitola to give more details about the places mentioned in the novel, and to show readers what the coastal town looks like.
You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AldWh3i_ak
What type of setting do you like to read? Real or imaginary? I'd love to know the setting of your current WIP and why you chose it.
Be safe this Halloween!