Setting the Stage

snoopySetting is such a crucial piece of a story. In order to have a great story, a writer must not only have dynamic characters, but a setting to put these characters in. All stories have some sort of setting, whether it is in an imaginary land full of mythical creatures or takes place during the 1800s. Setting helps paint a picture for the reader and initiates the main backdrop and mood for a story.

Setting is broadly defined as the location of the plot or where an event takes place. Setting is both the time and geographic location within a narrative or work of fiction. This includes region, geography, climate, buildings, and interiors.

Selecting an appropriate setting for your story must go beyond just you liking it. The behavior of fictional characters often depends on their environment. Setting sets the stage for what happens to your characters. Why does the character need to be there? What part does it play in your character’s journey or their past? Characters need to interact with the setting.

When building your setting, don’t do it all at once. World building should happen over the course of your entire novel, layered into every scene. The goal is to create a well-designed background for your characters without overwhelming the scene or interrupting the story. Carefully balance introducing readers to your world while maintaining plot. Let the setting unfold as the characters move through the scene. Build in elements of weather, lighting, the season, and time. A good rule of thumb is not to spend more than 3-4 paragraphs on setting at a time. Start with the bigger picture then zoom in on the details. Don’t try to include every tiny detail in your description. Focus on things your characters would notice, keeping in mind that different characters will see and interact with the scenery in different ways.

Help the reader picture themselves in the story. Include different senses when describing the setting. In real life, we explore and experience our surroundings through our senses. Through our experiences, we respond with an emotional reaction. Your characters need to do the same.

Utilize the internet and do research. Look up maps, tourist information, and photos of specific places you’d like to include in your setting. Gather information and use some of it when writing your description. If you are able, visit these places in person. It can add depth and flair to your writing.

For more information on setting, see the links below.

Writer’s Edit

Writer’s Digest

The Importance of Story Setting

Common Setting Mistakes

Writing World

Location, Location, Location

The Space Needle – An Icon of the Pacific Northwest

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“There are two very prominent characters in Sand & Sutures, and I suspect in all of the books in the Scrubs series, that have no dialogue. The first quiet but ever present character is the city of Seattle, Washington. You can feel the green, picture the fog, sunshine, and rain. The features and terrain of Seattle have been lovingly and subtly written in as the characters walk through their days.” -Opus Book Review of Sand & Sutures

The Space Needle is a huge tourist attraction and a well-known icon in the city of Seattle. But for me, it symbolizes the Northwest and every memory associated with it.

The distinctive structure is one of the landmarks that stands out when flying into the city, especially at night. The nighttime lights of the Space Needle are absolutely awe-inspiring, and they change to reflect various events. When the Seahawks play, the tower illuminates in blue and green. During the holidays, a tree made of 1,200 lights is perched 560 feet atop the building, brightening the city.  Every New Year’s Eve, the Space Needle hosts a fireworks display synchronized to music. When the University of Washington Huskies won the Rose Bowl, the team’s logo was temporarily painted on the tower, and the building glowed with a purple hue.

The Legacy Light, or Skybeam, is a vertical beam that shines on special occasions. Every year on 9–11, it lights up the sky for eleven consecutive hours.

The observation deck of the Space Needle provides a spectacular 360-degree view of the city and surrounding area. To the west, you’ll find Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. To the east, you’ll see the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and Lake Washington. You can get to the top by either taking the 41-second elevator ride or climbing the tower’s 848 steps.

The Space Needle is one of my favorite locations, not because of the building itself, but because of what it represents for my characters throughout the Scrubs series. In Scrubs, my leading man associates the Space Needle with home. He even has a tee-shirt with the word SEATTLE printed on the front; one of the T’s is a silhouette of the famous building. The structure brings back childhood memories for him and is one of the first things he shows people when they visit his beloved city.

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“As Randy’s plane descended over Puget Sound into the SEA-TAC airport, he remembered how much he missed home. The beautiful Seattle skyline lit up the nighttime sky, and the glow of the lights reflecting off the lake brought back memories of fishing with his dad.” –an excerpt from Scrubs

For most, the Space Needle is just a steel structure in the middle of downtown Seattle. But for me, the Space Needle symbolizes much more — hiking through moss-covered forests, the snow-covered Cascade Mountains, fishing in crystal clear lakes, waterfalls, fresh seafood, and my love for city of Seattle. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and although I no longer live in Seattle, I will always consider the emerald city my home.

(Taken from an article I wrote for Squirl’s On the Spot blog)

Author Confessions Round 15

With this particular work in progress, I went on location to research a setting I needed for one of my chapters. My main male character grew up in upstate New York. I had never been to New York before, but since my husband and I were planning a vacation and wanted to head that direction anyway, we stopped by the town my MC grew up in so I could check it out. Luckily, my husband is from New York and was able to give me a tour of the area, which was nice. I was able to get a hands-on experience. I took a lot of notes and pictures and walked around to get the full sense of the atmosphere. When I returned home, writing that scene was easier to do because I had a feel for the small town and was able to put my personal reflections into it. If given the opportunity to take another writing ‘field trip’, I will definitely do it. The experience was well worth the time and investment.

Squirl

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I’ve spent the last several weeks working on getting my book locations inputted into the Squirl app.  I heard about this app through a Marketing conference I recently attended.  Squirl is a location-based book discovery app.  The app’s purpose is to bridge the gap between stories and the real world, connecting real life locations with books that have settings in that same location.

When I first began the incredibly time consuming process of inputting all of my book’s locations, I really wasn’t sure how far it was going to go or if it would even be worth my time.  But the effort involved has definitely paid off.  Scrubs has been featured on Squirl.

Super excited to see my book being recognized outside of Texas.