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Set The Stage

Believe it or not, choosing the right setting is one of the most important decisions to make when planning a scene. The location can add mood, supply tension and conflict, steer the plot, characterize, foreshadow, and even provide a way to dribble in backstory. Going with the first thing that comes to mind is often easier but may rob the scene of added depth. Locations that are frequently used in books and film may also bore readers.For your next important scene, make a list of twenty possible locations. Brainstorm some that have personal meaning to one or more characters as this can affect their emotional state in the scene. Play with weather elements, time, and the quality of light (and shadow) to further customize your setting. Challenge yourself to find the perfect fit and it will pay off by powering up the scene and offering readers a fresh experience.

Describe Your Surroundings

We've all read about the grey autumn day, the crisp spring morning, the dewey summer evening. Flex your descriptive muscles by spending some time writing about your surroundings. Look for new, interesting, evocative ways to explain the world around you. For instance, instead of writing, "a breeze blew in through the open window, try, "papers fluttered in the gust that swept in through the window, throwing dust into the air like confetti."

Establishing The Background

Think of some information your readers will need to learn to understand the story. This could be technical information or character backstory. Now write an argument between two characters in which you use conflict to share this information.

The Art of Description

A few well-chosen words can create a strong sense of place which adds a rich dimension to your story. It draws your reader right in, as if they were in the room with your characters.Choose one of the following places and describe it using ALL of your five senses (touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing). In fiction, you won't usually use all five, but limbering up your storytelling this way will help you show rather than tell the story:

  1. A market in the South of France
  2. A teenage bedroom
  3. A pub
  4. A hairdresser's salon
  5. The souk in Marrakesh
  6. A stately home
  7. A garden

Consider the World View

When describing your setting, consider who's looking at it as well as what they see. For example, an ex-con is likely to view (and describe) a restaurant hosting a police officer's retirement party differently than the daughter of the retiring officer. Take the point-of-view-character's world view and personal judgment into consideration. What details would they specifically notice? How would they feel about what they see? What emotions or thoughts might those details trigger? This allows you to craft richer settings that reflect both the character, and the world they live in.