Five Settings

J. L. Harland   •   May 3rd, 2020

This time we thought we’d have a look at setting. Some writers use setting as a backdrop that is as important as the story itself. Think about the work of Ann Cleeves where the landscape is integral to the story.

Setting can play a part in the atmosphere of the story, but it can also help to serve the purpose of taking your reader with you to experience new and unfamiliar places through the eyes of your characters. Settings will vary, from huge landscapes to just one room and your job, as a writer, is to paint that picture for your reader. Use your senses to describe the setting and bring it to life.

Here are five ideas for you to play with. Try one and look at the contrasting suggestions. Time, as well as place, can change that setting

A graveyard.

During the day this could be a peaceful spot. A place for wildlife and for historical research. Visit the same graveyard at night and it would be a different experience. Graveyards could be places of religious belief or where a tramp sleeps undisturbed. What about the people visiting the graveyard? Are the graves well kept or abandoned?

At the seaside.

Think of the sights, sounds and smells. Then, imagine yourself in the same place as night falls or there’s a storm. How would you feel? The sea can be both a place of beauty and a place of menace. How would it play a part in your story? Is it a place of secrets or a place or refuge?

An abandoned house in the countryside.

This could be a place of shelter from the elements or somewhere hidden away and neglected. Is it a place of safety or is there something mysterious hidden in the atmosphere of the house? How neglected is it? A ruin? Left as if someone could come back at any moment?

A busy town centre.

Plenty of scope for building a story in the way people are behaving, the buildings, the smells of food, the cleanliness of the place. What time of day? Busy shoppers? Theatre goers? The homeless begging? Drunks creating a noise? Is your town centre somewhere you know well? Is it an imaginary town made up from snippets of places you have visited?

A children’s playground.

A playground should be a place of noise and movement but again it depends on weather, time of day and position. Is your playground going to be in a school or a country park? City, town or village. What do you expect to see there? Is anything out of place? Is the playground abandoned, pristine in appearance or broken down and full of litter?

These are just some ideas. Choose a place and visit it in your mind, or in person, making notes on the senses and how you feel being in that place. Then visit again at a different time and do the same exercise. How important is the setting? How are you going to make it come to life?

Have fun and send us your ideas and comments if you found this useful. Remember – keep writing!