Posted by: nancycurteman | September 2, 2014

How to Write Great Settings: Some Do’s and Don’ts

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thCreating a setting for a novel is more complex than simply describing the location where the story action occurs. Setting is more than a word picture of a place. It should influence plot and character action. Setting can be the primary motivational factor in a novel, forcing characters to behave in certain ways. To ensure setting does it job, view it as another character and give it the attention it deserves. Here are five do’s and don’ts for creating great settings:


  • work from the general to the specific when creating a setting.
    -Describe the country, city or neighborhood before describing the shop.
    -Describe the house exterior before describing the kitchen.
  • provide specifics. They make the plot, characters, and character actions more real.
  • describe sub-settings within your chosen setting
    – The inside of a car.
    – The bar in a nightclub.
  • work from the concrete to the abstract smells, feelings, atmosphere
  • use dialogue to reveal setting.
    – characters can tell each other about specific attributes of a setting
    -The manner in which characters speak and their use of vocabulary as well as the rituals and traditions unique to a certain place can reveal setting, e.g. southern drawls, Harlem slang, October Fest
  • indicate the season of the year and time of day the scene occurs
  • add sensory detail by describing what a character sees, hears, smells, and feels.


  • describe setting at the beginning of every scene or chapter. Incorporate it into action.
  • write long descriptions of setting. Sprinkle your descriptions throughout the scene.

Careful attention to setting is as important as careful attention to character development.

More Tips:

Great Settings Make Great Mysteries
8 Uncommon Settings for Your Mystery Novel
7 Ways Authors Can Create Realistic Settings



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