Developing Your Story Setting – 9 Tips to Help

Want to create a more immersive experience for your readers? Here are nine tips for developing your story setting.
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A story's setting is one of the most important aspects of the tale. It can help to set the tone and create a sense of place for the reader. A well-developed setting can also help to immerse the reader in the story. In this article, we'll discuss what is a setting, elements that are needed in any setting, nine tips for developing a story setting, and examples of compelling settings.

What is a setting of a story?

In a story, the setting is the time, location, and environment in which its events take place. It can be real or imaginary, specific or general.  

The story's setting helps to establish its mood and atmosphere. It can also influence the characters, plot, and theme.

Elements of setting in a story

When creating a story setting, there are three main aspects that you will need to consider: time, location, and environment.

Time

The time period in which your story takes place is an important element of the setting. Will your story take place in the present day? The past? The future? A specific year? A specific season? Knowing the time period in which your story takes place will help to set the stage for the events that will unfold.

The time period in which your story takes place can have a big impact on the events that take place within it. For example, a historical fiction set during World War II will be very different from a contemporary romance set in New York City.

Location

The location of your story is another important element of the setting. Is your story set in a small town? A big city? In the country? On a planet far, far away? The physical location of your story can help to create a sense of place for the reader and can also influence the events that take place.

The location of your story can provide a sense of place for the reader and help to set the tone of the tale. For example, a story set in a small town in the Midwest will have a different feel than one set in Los Angeles.

Environment

The environment in which your story takes place is the final element of the setting. Is it set in an office building? A school? A forest? Underwater? The environment can help to create a sense of atmosphere and can also influence the events that take place.

The environment can help to create a sense of place for the reader and set the tone of the story. For example, a story set in a cold, snowy climate will have a different feel than one set in a warm, tropical climate.

Tips for developing a setting

1. Think about your story's genre when deciding on its setting.

The setting of your story should be appropriate for the genre in which it falls. A historical fiction set during World War II will be very different from a contemporary romance set in New York City.

Think about what sort of story you are telling and choose a setting that will support that tale.

For example, if you are writing a mystery, you may want to set it in a small town where everyone knows each other. This can help to create a sense of suspense and make it more difficult for the murderer to remain hidden.

If you are writing a story with elements of the supernatural, you may want to set it in an old house or castle. This can help to create a sense of foreboding and add to the atmosphere of the story.

2. Create a story setting that is believable.

A believable setting is important to creating a connection with your audience. If you are writing a story set in the present day, be sure to do your research and ensure that the location and environment are accurate.

If you are writing a story set in an imaginary world, be sure to create a setting that is consistent and believable. This can be a challenge, but it is important to make sure that your readers will be able to suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves in your story.

Paying attention to the small details can help to make your story more believable. For example, if you are writing a story set in a small town, be sure to include details about the local businesses and landmarks. This will help to create a sense of place for the reader.

If you are writing a story set in an imaginary world, be sure to include detailed descriptions of the environment and the creatures that inhabit it.

3. Make sure your story setting is consistent.

Once you have decided on the time period, location, and environment for your story, make sure that these elements are consistent throughout the tale. Inconsistencies in the setting can be confusing for the reader and can make your story seem less believable.  

Pay attention to the small details and make sure that they remain consistent throughout the story. For example, if you have decided that your story will take place in a small town in the Midwest, be sure to use consistent language when describing the town.

If you are writing a story set in an imaginary world, be sure to keep track of the made-up words and terms that you create. This will help to ensure that your story is consistent and easy to follow. Creating a world building bible is a great way to organize your imaginary world's setting.

Consistency in the setting can help to create a sense of place for the reader and make your story more enjoyable to read.

4. Develop the main location where most of your story will take place.

While your story may take place in multiple locations, make sure to focus on developing a main location where most of the story will take place. This can be a challenge, but it is important to make sure that the reader has a sense of the lay of the land.

By developing the main location you create an anchoring point for the audience. They will be able to visualize the setting and get a better sense of the story.

5. Use sensory details to bring your setting to life.

When describing your story setting, it is important to use all of the senses. This will help to create a more vivid picture for the reader and make the setting more believable.

Be sure to include details about what the characters see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. This will help to create a more immersive experience for the reader.

For example, if you are describing a forest, you might want to include the following details:

The trees were tall and foreboding, their branches reaching out like skeletal fingers. The air was thick with the smell of damp earth and rotting leaves. The ground was spongy beneath my feet, and the only sound was the soft rustle of the leaves in the breeze.

Setting descriptions like this can help to bring your story to life and make it more enjoyable for a reader.

6. Consider the characters that will inhabit your story setting.

The type of characters that will inhabit your setting can help to determine the type of environment that you create.

For example, if you are writing a story about a group of bandits, you might want to set your story in a lawless area where the characters can hide out and plan their crimes.

If you are writing a story about a group of wizards, you might want to set your story in a magical kingdom where they can practice their craft.

7. Think about your audience

Who will be reading your story? What do they know about the time period or location in which the story takes place? What kind of environment do they feel comfortable with? Knowing your audience will help you to determine what level of detail to include in your story setting.  

For example, if you are writing a story for young children, you might want to include charming and witty details to create a sense of fun.

If you are writing for adults, you might want to include more complex details that will help to create a richer setting and develop themes.

8. Think about the main character's goal

When developing your story setting, it is important to consider the goal of the main character. What does the character want to achieve? How will the setting help or hinder the character in achieving this goal?

For example, if your story is about a boy who wants to become a wizard, you might want to set your story in a magical kingdom where she can go to wizard school. Or if your story is about a young girl who wants to become a singer, you might want to set your story in a city where she can audition for singing competitions.

9. Research and plan places in your story

If you are writing a story set in a real location, do your research. This will help to ensure that your story is accurate and believable, and saves you from scrutiny from experts.

You might want to visit the location or read books about it. You can also look at pictures or maps to get a better sense of the lay of the land.

If you are writing a story set in an imaginary world, you will still need to do some planning. Even though you are making up the world, you need to make sure that it is consistent and logical.

Compelling story setting examples

The Lord of the Rings

  • The story is set in the fictional world of Middle-earth.
  • Time period: The Third Age of the fictional world.
  • Main location: The Shire
  • What makes it compelling: The world is well-developed with its own dense world history, established languages, and unique races of beings. There is a grand sense of different peoples, cultures both alive and gone, and a sense of the world slowly decaying and losing its magic over thousands of years.

Harry Potter series

  • The story is set in the wizarding world which exists alongside the Muggle (non-magical) world in Britain.
  • Time period: The years 1991 to 1998.
  • Main location: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
  • What makes it compelling: The wizarding world is well-developed with its own government, customs, and magic system. It takes characteristics of the real modern world and creates equivalents of those elements in a fictional magical one.

Conclusion

Now that you know some tips for developing a compelling story setting, you can get started on creating your own. Just remember to focus on the details, consider the characters that will inhabit your world, and think about your audience. With a little planning and effort, you can create a story setting that is rich and believable.

Kevin from StoryFlint

Hello friends! I'm Kevin, the creator of StoryFlint.

I love the science of storytelling and learning how to create compelling characters, plots, themes and worlds.

I'm here to help you organize and visualize your story to make it the best it can be!

More about me

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