Friday, March 6, 2015

Writing Tip #8: Setting

This will be the first-part in 3-part blog series about the basics of any novel. The other two parts will be dedicated to plot and characters. No, you don't have to think of the parts in this order when you start a novel. You are allowed to consider plot or characters first and setting last. And no, sometimes I don't even think of setting first. This is the order I picked because it's the easiest to go in.

Now we're going to get into the bare bones of your novel. You don't have a novel if you don't have a setting. It's great you have multiple people playing different roles strolling on the trail we call a plot but if they've got no stage to stand on, well; they look kind of stupid.

Setting can be: 1945, London, England or it can be: sometime in the future somewhere in America. The difference? 1945, London, England is restricting. It means you have to research what it was like in London, England in 1945. What were people wearing? What were people's rights? How much did things cost? How did people live? For sometime in the future somewhere in America you have much more creative freedom but then you have questions like: are there flying cars? Have people's opinions changed on *insert major controversial issue here*?

Even if your setting is entirely fictional you have to answer the following: what's the layout like? Are there mountains? Streams? Rivers? Lots of people? Roads? How's the weather? What does my main character's living quarters look like? How does MC travel? What does their place of work look like?

A lot of this depends on your plot and your character. For instance if you're writing about the past it's unlikely you're going to be looking up the newest models of cars or have your female MCs wandering around in anything but a gown. If your character has been described as a general slob they're not going to have a pristine home in the best part of town.

Setting can also be a major factor in moving along your plot. A character comes home from work, notices the hammer they always kept on the bench in the garage has been moved and the door to the rest of the house is ajar. Uh-oh. Looks like a break-in or potential murder.

Character watches flying cars zoom by their window from a steel and glass building hovering above the ground. They're thinking about going to the Virtual Reality arcade to play some new game with their friends and wonders if their cyborg-dog will have its new programs downloaded before supper. Oh hey, we're in the future.

Your character is waiting for their date to arrive, wondering if they'll go horseback riding through the meadow and maybe have some crumpets at tea time. She hopes her dress won't get in the way of riding and it'll be clean enough to wear at tea time. Yep, we're in the past, likely England. Sorry, had to. ;)

Setting isn't only about showing your reader where your character lives but it shows how they live. It can also be used to move along the plot and show how your character reacts to the plot. Setting is one of the biggest concepts you need to consider before sitting down and writing your novel.

Setting is a small sample of "world-building" which is a whole other blog post. Sorry. World-building can get pretty complex even if you are on earth. The good news is once you have a established world and setting they can become a character of its own.

Setting can be used for everything and anything in your novel. It can set the tone of the story (cliché rainy day when things are going bad, sun breaking out of the clouds when bad things are over) and give that extra umph of believability to your story. Setting is the je ne se quoi of any novel. If you ignore it then you've got actors (characters), making all the motions (plot) on a green-wall and that's no fun.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.

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