Monday, May 11, 2015

It Takes Place Where?

The setting for any story is as important as the characters themselves. Without details of where the story or scene takes place, it can make the reader feel as though they aren't grounded in the story. It makes it difficult for them to picture in their mind's eye where the action is taking place.

At the same time, you don't want to go overboard and put in so many details that the reader starts skimming over those details to get to something more interesting. I admit doing this with the novel Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. It was a great story, but there were pages and pages of description of places, characters, etc.

Someone told me to paint the setting with the broad strokes of a brush. Instead of describing a room or person or item with every possible detail, to only include those details that have significance to the story or the scene. You want to include just enough details to help the reader picture the image you want to convey.

One way to describe the setting is to do it through dialogue rather than through a paragraph of description. You can also have your characters describe the setting through their point of view. Doing this helps ground your characters in the setting as well. It can also give a deeper insight into the point of view character because it allows the reader to see the setting through that character's eyes and thoughts.

You can also use setting related details to feed your reader back story without doing a flashback scene or paragraphs of back story (which editors frown on and call a back story dump).

There are a lot of ways to work setting and description into a story. The best way to do it is to find a way to give the reader those necessary details in such a way that the reader doesn't even notice that's what's happening.

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