I’ve been busy the last week working on a short story for an end-of-month deadline while I fight a dreaded cold (well, it IS that time of year in Australia). On top of this, I’ve continued to develop the outline for my next WIP, my middle grade novel. One key part of this is determining the most suitable settings for my story.
As mentioned in a previous post, Character Source, I spent time on my recent European trip researching possible settings for the parts of my story which take place on that continent. This setting made the short list – know where it is?
Okay, that doesn’t make it easy.
Here’s another pic:
Any idea? It’s really not that hard 🙂
Anyway, to get to my short list, I made another list, one of suitable criteria to consider before a setting was included. Or chopped. They were:
- Location (obviously) – from broad particulars such as country, state, city/rural, etc. down to specifics such as streets, houses, schools, businesses, roads and landmarks.
- Geography – including the climate, topography and ecosystems, and possible obstacles such as mountains, deserts and oceans. Man-made influences, such as graveyards and marketplaces, also provide extra authenticity.
- Time – including time of day (down to the hour) and week, seasons, holiday periods, event anniversaries and commemorations. I also consider the length of time that has elapsed since the previous story setting, especially the effect this can have on characters (their age, mood, etc.)
- Atmosphere – one of the main reasons I’ve short-listed the setting in the above photos is due to the mood I hope to create in this scene – scary with a sense of foreboding, due to its hidden dungeons and chambers (yep, another clue). Other influences on atmosphere include weather, lighting and temperature.
- Population – from a desolate lonely place, to one bustling with people, animals and traffic (in which is it easier for a character to hide? Or attack?)
- History – past events that took place in that location, including its ancestral past, which may be incorporated into my plot.
- Social and Cultural – including the political climate of the location.
I need to be ruthless when deciding which settings will enhance my writing the most.
That is, they must all present conflicts or obstacles to be overcome.
They must all provide the POV character with an opportunity to grow or change.
And they must all provide the most suitable backdrop for revealing plot points and advancing the story.
All of the above criteria impacts how I (and readers) visualize a setting. Try comparing a tropical beach during a hot summer’s day to a deserted house on a cold Halloween night. The first is relaxing and fun; the second, not so much.
And then there’s utilizing all the senses. It’s all too easy to write what I’ve seen on my travels, but if the tunnel was dark, and the wind howled through its long corridor, and my hair brushed my face while trembling fingertips found their way along its coarse brick wall…
Anyway, you get my drift 🙂
So how do you decide on settings? Do you have a list of criteria (mine is by no means exhaustive)?
Would love to hear your thoughts,