Setting is one of the Five Elements of Story that I wrote about in my blog post: How to Start Writing. Once you have a character, you then have to figure out where and when they are. Remember, the setting has an influence on the character. So if your desired setting and your character don’t seem to match, you might have to change one of them.
When you are deciding on a setting you have two choices: real or fantasy. You can set your book in a real town or city found on earth, or in a made-up town or city found on earth, or you can even build your own world for your book. Each option comes with its challenges.
Writing in a setting that is real and tangible, means that you will either need to visit that place and/or research it. Say if your book is set in New York City. If you live there, it would be easier for you, but if you don’t live there then you will need to do your research. If you write your book with a real setting that you have NOT researched that will convey to the readers. Readers can sense bullcrap just by reading the back-page blurb. Always do your research!
If you are creating a fictional town or city, you will have to determine where this town/city is located. Then you have to determine the size and population of the town/city. After that, you will need to have a good image in your mind what it looks like. You will want to have a history of the town and other culturally significant facts. You’ll want to know what kind of resources and shops that town has. You will want to know it as well as you know your own hometown.
The book series The Caster Chronicles, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, is set in the fictional town of Gatlin. Garcia and Stohl were able to create a small town that is believable on all levels. The residence of this town are believable and the history of the town is believable. This is the best possible example I could give you. It is an amazing series.
Another option, usually chosen by fantasy writers, is creating your own world. I won’t go into a lot of detail because there’s a lot you need to know about world-building. When creating a new world you have to have a set of rules that are followed throughout your world. Things like magic, gravity, and physics need to be dealt with. Is there magic? Is there gravity? Does the world physically behave like earth? You need to have a good understanding of your new world before you actually start writing. You need to know it as well as you know earth. How was it created? What does it look like? What’s the culture like? and so on.
No matter which route you go, you need to make sure that your setting fits with your story. If the setting and the story don’t seem to sit well with each other, you might have to reconsider your setting. You also have to determine all the settings you’ll need for your story. Will your story stay in one place for the majority of the time? Will there be traveling? How many settings will you need and how well should you know them? You have to know these things when you write a book.
Also, you need to know what time your book is set. Is it in the past, present, or future? In a fantasy world, this is harder to determine, so you need to know your world’s history and go from there. With any of these options, again, you’ll need to do your research.
There are a lot of considerations that go into setting a book. I have given you the essential tools you’ll need, but there are other small things you will also need to consider. Like: locale, time of year, time of day (for specific scenes), how time flows, mood and atmosphere, climate, geography, historical importance, social/political/cultural environment, population, and ancestral influences. (Check out the full list and explanations at Writer’s Digest Discover The Basic Elements of Setting In a Story.)
P.S- I will be making a post going into depth about World-Building in the future.
Thanks for reading,