Its all about the place and time.
I was at the fabulous RNA conference last weekend – where I delivered a workshop on how to use settings more effectively in a book.
My workshop was at 9 AM the morning after the Gala Dinner – but despite the late night party, a large number of hearty souls were up and about early – thanks for coming.
A few were still not actually able to focus well enough to make notes, so for those and for anyone else who might find it useful – here are some of my notes.
Setting is three things – time, place and reality.
Time and place are easy to understand – reality refers to the world you create – especially a sci fi or fantasy world.
Your setting frames the story – and also puts the reader in the right frame of mind for your book.
Choose a setting appropriate to your theme – many themes can be set anywhere, but some themes can be more clearly illustrated in a particular setting.
Look for the obvious and appropriate setting – then look for the opposite. Sometimes that will work even better to highlight your theme.
The setting should throw focus onto the characters and help give them depth. When you meet your key characters, fill in their surroundings. A reader can learn a lot about a character from the places they inhabit. And also fill their backstory with places – especially childhood places as these help define the adult.
Always remember the negative – places can reveal your characters’ strengths – or their fatal flaws.
Settings can help develop plot. Taking a character out of their comfort zone can prompt an emotional or unreasonable reaction. A setting can give one character dominance over another if they are in their own place. And think of the possibilities of placing your character in a setting they cannot control.
Settings can help create a mood. You can use settings to manipulate not just your characters’ emotions – but also those of your reader.
To make the most of your setting, you have to bring it to life on the page with just the right amount of description. Use all the senses – hearing, sight, touch, small, taste – so the reader feels as if they are really there. Use settings to generate emotions. Fear, frustration, relief, uncertainty, excitement, impatience, joy, awe can all be caused by a place.
Use all the properties of a setting – the weather, the physical characteristics of the place, the reaction of the other people in that place. All this will add layers to your scene.
If you get it right, the setting itself can became a character in its own right. One of the reviews of Flight To Coorah Creek said – I wish this town was real. I want to go and live there. That’s just what I was hoping for.
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