Sometimes we get so tied up with trying to create a story, we forget how important settings are, and what they can contribute.
I’ve used the following ideas in creative writing workshops. Examples are in italics.
1. Think of settings as characters in your story. They are as important, not just add-ons.
The house was our guardian. She folded us within her affectionate walls day after day, listening to our secrets, offering us refuge from the destructive weathers of our lives.
2. When describing characters, a few salient details will do the job. It’s the same with settings.
A dog barked in the late-night street. Someone shouted ‘Thanks’ and slammed a taxi door. The smell of spices drifted through the air from the takeaway on the corner and one man, unsteady, peered at the menu through the misty window.
3. Use the settings to say things about characters. Have characters interact with their environment.
Brian ran his fingers up and down the heavy velvet of the plum-coloured curtains while he waited to be called. He hadn’t expected the office to be so plush. Would he really fit in here?
The solicitor’s office looked as though no one had visited it for years. A secretary tapped away on an electronic typewriter while a brand new computer and printer were piled up in a corner, a layer of dust on the boxes.
4. Use adjectives sparingly when creating settings. Think of verbs instead. Have the setting do something.
Version 1. It was a hot, scorching and oppressive day in the city, thought John.
Version 2. There was an oppressive heat over the city, thought John, dabbing his brow with a tissue.
Version 3.The city’s heat bounced off the high walls, oppressing John as he walked.
5. Personify the setting even further.
Version 1 The river had overflowed and flooded the fields
Version 2. The river had burst its banks and plundered the surrounding fields.
Version 1. It was a busy day at the market.
Version 2. Market stalls groaned under the weight of fruit and the rude onslaught of jostling shoppers.
6. Use synaesthesia (mixing up the senses) to describe settings
The market traders yelled, their voices yellow and purple and red with the names of their fruits.
The sizzle of frying bacon floated upstairs, calling her out of bed.
She stroked the expensive silken dress in the shop and it whispered sweet nothings to her.
|Here are my grandchildren in the setting of a park. What do you mean, is this just an excuse for a grandchildren picture?|