A Sense of Place

Sometimes we’re so concerned about the forward motion of our stories—the plot, the dialogue, the characters’ growth—that we forget about the fourth element of great storytelling: Setting. Writing great setting is essential to ground your action in reality. It allows your reader to either relate because of shared memories or to deepen her interest because she’s experiencing something evocative for the first time.

So what is setting exactly? Setting is simply the description of the world in which your characters move. Setting often gets short shrift. It’s not as dynamic as plotting; it’s not as moving as character development. But setting allows you to establish the mood of a story and to provide context for the characters’ actions.

As Writer’s Digest explains, setting isn’t static:

“[S]etting is more than a mere backdrop for action; it is an interactive aspect . . . that saturates the story with mood, meaning, and thematic connotations. . . . Place is layered into every scene and flashback, built of elements such as weather, lighting, the season, and the hour.”

So what goes into well-written setting?

  • Location and Geography. Is your story in the city or the country? What does the natural landscape look like?
  • Time. When does your story take place? Present day? During a particular historical era? What’s the season? Is it day or night?
  • Mood. Is the setting frightening? Eerie? Calming? Hectic? What is the atmosphere of the place?
  • Interiors and Exteriors. What is the architecture like? How are the rooms decorated?
  • Climate. Is it raining? Sweltering? So windy you have to clutch your hat to your head? Peaceful and sunny?
  • Culture. What are the customs of the place? What values are important? What do people eat and drink and wear? What activities do they engage in?
  • A Sense of Place. This is the “je ne sais quoi” of a place that only comes through in the language you choose to describe your setting, whether lyrical, stark, or quirky.

As with all details you include in your story, you don’t want to put in everything about your setting. So how do you choose what to include? Describe setting only when it matters to your plot, your characters’ transformation, or your overarching theme. Think: Is this detail crucial to resolve my literary conflict? If so, include it.

This week on the grid, I want you to sharpen your powers of description. Pay attention to setting and bring it to life to support your characters, their dialogue, and your plotting.

Yeah write super challenge

The yeah write super challenge #2 may be over and done with, but stay tuned for news for the next one coming in early 2017! Make sure you sign up for our email blast so you don’t miss out on any announcements regarding super challenge #3.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Nonfiction know-how:

class is in session

What do you remember from learning to write in school? Did you have a particular teacher who made writing interesting? Did you read a story or article and think “oh, I wish I could write like that?” We get so used to the structured learning in school that sometimes when we’re out on our own in the Real World we’re not sure how to continue – or even begin – the learning process. That’s what this month’s nonfiction know-how is about: finding the master class that’s happening all around you.

Want more info?

Is this your first time here? Check out Sunday’s post which kicked off the week here at yeah write. Our email subscribers can also join us in the yeah write coffeehouse at its home on Facebook. If you’ve never taken the time to read them, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with our submission guidelines. The rules are a little different for each of our challenges and we’d hate to have to send back great writing on a technicality.

Did you happen to end up here because you suddenly saw yeah write in your stats? Sometimes members of our community spot excellent writing and they send those posts on over to us. We hope you don’t mind. Take a look around and get to know our community. We’re sure you’ll be happy here.

Have questions you can’t find the answer to by poking around the site? Email us or find us on Facebook and Twitter and we’ll happily help you out.


How to submit and fully participate in the challenge

Basic yeah write guidelines: 1000 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; nonfiction personal essay, creative opinion piece or mostly true story based on actual events.

1. In the sidebar of this week’s post, please grab the code beneath the nonfiction badge and paste it into the HTML view of your entry
2. Follow the Inlinkz instructions after clicking “add your link” to upload your entry to this week’s challenge grid
3. Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message
4. Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge
5. Consider turning off moderated comments and CAPTCHA on your own blog

Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.

Thank you for sharing with us your hard work! Good luck in the challenge…[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

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