Writer’s Workshop: Creating intriguing settings can be key to revealing your story’s characters

If you’re a writer struggling with filling a page, this article is definitely for you.

As an aspiring writer myself, I constantly grapple with the need for action in my writing. I’ve never paused and thought about it, but whenever I fill a page, I tend to look back. You know what I see? I see lots of action, lots of travel. What I don’t see is any setting. Of course, there’s a small sense of where the characters are whenever the story requires it, but there aren’t any true place-setting paragraphs.

I’ve read many a book, and all of those have placed me in the story itself. How? By filling pages upon pages with descriptions of what surrounds the characters. Setting is one of the most important things in writing, right up there next to character description. If you want to fill those pages with beautiful imagery, just keep on reading.

•Does the scene take place inside or out? This could affect the weather, the temperature, or whether or not there’s wildlife around.

•Is the space light or dark? You could use the lighting to make some characters invisible to others, a critical point in some scenes.

•Is the space large or small? Within a larger space, sounds can echo, which can sometimes be deleterious to characters trying to be quiet.

•How does it affect the characters’ movements, thoughts and interactions? If it’s a cramped, dark area, you could have characters comment on the dim lighting or the restrictive confines.

•How are the characters positioned in the space? The characters don’t all have to be seated at a circular table, so to speak. One or two could be having a separate conversation near the door, ready to bolt if necessary.

•How do they perceive the space differently? Not all characters are created equally. Some could be used to wide-open spaces, while others prefer claustrophobic areas.

•How does the space create or resolve conflict? For example, perhaps a character is standing on another’s foot, unaware of the other’s discomfort.

•What objects are representative of the space? If an intricately carved wooden table is in the center of the room, chances are that it’s a meeting area of some kind.

•What themes are represented by the space? A funeral will have a rather somber tone to it, while an upbeat party is quite the opposite.

•What role does the space play in the story? It could be the future death-site for an important character, unknown to the reader at the time.

•What do the characters hear, smell, taste, touch, see or feel? A forest could have an earthy smell; a feast could be filled with many different tastes and sights.

•List some words that describe the space. You can use this later to plug in specific feelings within your characters, and by extension, your readers.

•How do these influence the scene? If the ground is covered in fog, characters may be more cautious, for fear of tripping on roots.

•What limitations does the space cause? If the area has a low ceiling, taller characters may have to stoop to walk around, causing discomfort.

•What liberties does the space provide? If a bed is in the area and a character is tired, then the bed is welcome.

These questions can be useful when you need to really bring your stories to life, and in doing so, make your readers want even more. I hope this article helped in your endeavors, since it’s sincerely helped in my own.

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