Setting, while it may not be the foremost thing on a writer’s mind, is very important, as we have discussed in this series, because it is foundational. Characters are a piece of a work of literature that a person follows but the setting is what can draw them in. Setting and characters are vital to a story but the place where your story lives and where your characters move is what pulls the reader into the book or story.
A setting can be new, exciting, and imaginative in ways that enthralls a reader or it can be some place familiar that brings a swell of memories to a reader and really bring them along the journey. Both of these are beneficial to the writer, if they want to capture the reader, but the setting has to be alive and detailed. Yet, there’s a balance that has to be struck because the reader doesn’t need to be hit over the head with details until they’re tired of the story just based on the setting descriptions.
Your setting needs to be understandable though because, for a lot of us, we’ve never been to the setting of a book or story. Yet, this can be a piece of the story that creates empathy or understanding in your reader. For example, if I’m a white, southern male living in the mountains of western North Carolina, I might not know much about a hispanic community in New York City but a writer that takes care to show the characters and setting that make up this area is going to draw me in and make me understand a world I’ve probably never thought about.
Also, the area where your story takes place can be used to connect with readers far removed from your people/situation because there are similarities in places and cultures that may never be apparent to some.
While I may have belabored the point of the importance of setting in this series of articles, it’s something that needs just as much attention as plot and character. It can enliven a tale, create empathy and understanding, spark magic in the mind of a reader, pull us into an almost familiar world, and help us to walk the streets where the story is taking place.