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David Farland talks about not forgetting to write setting so real you can see it in your mind's eye.
https://mailchi.mp/102b8127ad33/david-farlands-writing-tips-spectacular-settings

When I'm looking at a story, one of the simple things I look at is setting. There are

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so many aspects to a setting, so let’s just look at a few:

1) Is your milieu intriguing? Many authors will set a story in the most blasé of places. Often, the story is set “somewhere in the USA”. While for certain types of stories this may be completely appropriate, in most cases it’s not. It’s as if the writer has suffered brain death and couldn’t bother to come up with a real milieu. In most cases, it helps if you choose a particular place to set your story and a particular date.

2) Is the world fully created? If you’re using a real-world setting, then “creating” that world is a matter of capturing it—learning its history, culture, and future. It’s not enough just to research a setting, you have to know it, get it into your bones. This usually means that you must travel to that setting and spend some time there. You can’t just blow through Amarillo, Texas and expect to really know the place.

In a science fiction tale, if you want to set your story on a planet, then creating a setting might require you to decide what kind of star system your planet is set in, along with the planet’s composition, rotation, axial tilt, number of moons, type of atmosphere, and so on. You may have to think about how to create alien life-forms, and develop their life-cycles, and perhaps create their histories, languages, and societies. Just getting those kinds of details takes some concentration.

If you’re creating a fantasy world, then you may have to look even further—into creating the flora and fauna of your world, along with cultures and subculture, the magic systems and economic systems, societies, languages, histories, religions, and so on.

So I look at how robust your setting is. I consider how fully developed it is. I ask myself, “Has this author put enough thought into the setting to create the illusion that this is a real place?”

3) Does your setting produce interesting characters and conflicts?

A well-developed setting has a profound effect on characterization. To a large degree, you’re a product of your environment—of your culture, your society, your school system, your family influences, and so on. In a story, this must also be true.

So, I look at your world and ask myself, “How well has this author taken advantage of his or her milieu? Had she missed opportunities to make her characters more interesting?” If you’re creating a fantasy world, and you develop a particularly fascinating subculture, then you may want to consider placing one of your characters in that culture.

But the setting doesn’t just help develop characters, it also creates its own conflicts. Thus, if you have a story where a world is enshrouded by a continual electric storm, how does that affect your tale?

4) Now, once you’ve created a milieu, how well do you display that world?

Some authors don’t show their settings well at all. I often see stories where there is no background, no mountains or forests in the distance. Often, the author doesn’t bother to mention what time of day it is, or what the weather is like.

In other stories, authors even forget to mention the mid-ground. In other words, if they’re in a small town, they give no details about nearby houses, streets, or crowds.

Other authors even forget to mention what is close by, so that when a character is sitting eating lunch at a table, someone may suddenly speak up—appearing out of nowhere.

Many authors don’t involve all of the senses. They go “cinematic” on me, so that they only show me things from the outside, never referring to the sense of taste or touch. These authors often forget to get into the heads of their protagonists, so that we don’t hear their thought or sense their emotions.

Remember, the best-selling novels in almost every genre do one thing well above all others: they transport the reader fully into a well-developed milieu.

 

 

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I love to read settings. Gets into my brain like wearing VR goggles! And I'm right there. When I write my little stories, and since they are usually parables, I love adding settings. Thanks, Johne! :D

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When I came up with a story that would become a series, I never wrote anything longer than 25K. I had this incredible feeling of I don't know what I'm doing. So, I set it where I did know -- my neighborhood. (South Philly.) If I don't know something about the setting, I can drive, walk, or google for pictures.

 

My first two books in this series are set in my neighborhood. Then the protagonists head for Washington D.C., the hard way -- via South Jersey, then Delaware, then Maryland, and then D.C.

 

At the time, I thought I could go there too. Now I can't. Jersey isn't a problem, since that's my old stomping grounds, but I'm going to have to put in a lot of effort to capture the Delaware/Maryland/D.C. vibes.

 

I do think it's doable; however, it will require finding forums online of people who live in the area to pick their brains.

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Just now, suspensewriter said:

I'm a big fan of the minimalist approach to settings.  Too much detail just loses me.

 

Agreed - Roger Zelazny was a master of using no more than three descriptions at a time, and yet his work always felt really vivid. It was a neat trick.

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4 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

I'm a big fan of the minimalist approach to settings.  Too much detail just loses me.

I'm on the other end of the spectrum. I loved James Michener because the setting was the main character in the story.

 

(Neither is wrong. I just love how different we can be.)

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Posted (edited)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. She follows three characters: one is a black nurse, one is a white supremacist, and the third is a public defender.

 

I remember hearing one time that a little girl was asked which she liked better, the radio or the TV. She preferred the radio, because the pictures were better. Sometimes reading is like that.

Edited by carolinamtne
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