The Craft of Writing Fiction: The Setting (Part 2)

Setting is something that can be overly explained despite the fact that it is so very vital to a story.  There are countless stories that go into detail upon detail of a certain landscape or the country their characters inhabit or the inside of a spaceship or wherever their story resides.  Yet, this can be off-putting to many readers so it’s important to slowly introduce your setting if its something incredibly expansive.

Be it a magical castle or a vast roaming land, these settings can be exciting and fantastic places that have a life all their own, but it’s important not to focus too much on them, rather, let your characters work within them.  You wouldn’t overly focus on a single character in your story, in cases where you have more than one, and such is the case with your setting.

Also, a setting must prop up the characters and be the story, not bog it down or cause the reader to pause and focus on where they are rather than how your characters are interacting with the world around them.  In the novel It, the town and certain places are very important but they’re also described subtly so that we know these young, innocent kids are living in a diseased place.  

Harry Potter is another example of a setting where it can make or break a story.  However, the pieces of the castle are described throughout the book rather than Rowling devoting pages and pages or chapters just on what the castle is like.  Getting pieces of the setting here and there, letting it build over time and coming back to familiar places all go into creating a wonderful world without getting us distracted by it.

So, while your setting is so very important to your story and shouldn’t be a flat, stereotypical part of your tale.  Yet, it should be something that you show, rather than laying it out in painful detail. Build your setting just as you would a character and you’ll find your story richer as a result.