A Guest Post By Dmytry Karpov
Things to Remember
A setting isn’t a place, it’s a character. Too often, writers describe what a location looks like and move on. The prose, if beautiful, may be memorable, but the setting will be flat and forgettable. Even action scenes deserve arenas, so locations deserve word count. With these three tips, make your settings three dimensional.
Atmosphere: You’ve probably learned about it in English class. (And no, it’s not the thing that floats around our planet. Homonyms, people!) It is the feel of a setting. It is the sum of sensations it creates. In order for a setting to have atmosphere, its descriptions must hint at mood.
If the room is dark, the walls peeling and covered in webs, feelings of decay and darkness are achieved. Add a little blood, and an atmosphere of horror is created. Mention a sunny day, and sensations of warmth arise.
Every detail helps create or destroy atmosphere. If present, it will pair your setting with an emotion, be memorable, and enhance your scene. It will draw sensations from your characters and readers. Atmosphere gives setting emotion. History gives it depth.
History: (Not the tedious heavy textbook kind.) Every location, unless absolutely and unrealistically untouched, has it. There are coffee stains on the table within a family’s home. There are pictures on the wall within a child’s room. Castles are built upon old ruins, marked in a language long forgotten. Space ships are covered in posters put up by the crew.
Such details make setting a character. They create interest, mystery. They allow the setting to change and grow. Not only can it have feelings and depth, it can affect people.
Don't Forget Action
Life: Most settings are filled with it. Drunks cheer at a bar. A spider crawls across the floor. Engines roar. Children laugh. A bird sits on the windowsill. A mouse sits in the corner. In fantasy, trees and rock may come alive. In Science-Fiction, computers may beep and talk.
Settings can move. They can change. They can affect characters and demand responses.
Don’t make your setting a place.
Make your setting a character. Make it important.
Dmytry Karpov is an Adult Fantasy writer tired of cliches and girl-meets-vampire plots. His first book, The Nemean Lion, is set in a post-apocalyptic world where both zombies and fairytale creatures exist. And Ann, a fierce girl trying to return home, sets out on a quest with a leprechaun. Of course, she would have preferred a vampire, but not everyone's that lucky.