Not that kind of setting! Ba dun tch! I know, but it’s Monday. Humor me.
Welcome to the last week of NaNoWriMo! If you’re on track you should have 46,676 words by the end of the day. I am not on track so don’t feel bad if you aren’t too. I always skip a few days before catching up in a mad dash. If you are on track, you’re a champ! Well, you’re a champ no matter what.
Moving along! Today I want to talk about setting. The setting is a very important background character in your novel. Sometimes authors can go for pages setting the…setting. 😛 I personally don’t think it’s necessary to go on for pages when you can convey the tone and set it in a few paragraphs. It’s down to word choice.
I suggest to begin your setting in the first paragraph or sentence. Paint the picture that your characters are in before you even mention them. Mentally build up that painting layer by layer before plopping your heroes down into it. Begin with the five senses: visual, taste, smell, feel, sound, but don’t say those words exactly as I mentioned in my Passive vs Active blog. This is a part of showing, not telling.
Place your setting at the beginning of each new scene or chapter. I also suggest you place it with each change of room or environment. If a character is passing through a single sentence should suffice. If they stop to have a conversation or end up in that room go into more detail. Readers can always fill in some gaps themselves, but the more you paint for them the closer to your vision of the story they’ll see.
Also keep in mind that once you’ve described a commonly used room in detail it isn’t necessary to go over the intimate details again and again. Maybe mention the time of day and weather and how it affects what you’ve already described to the reader.
Use your environment to interact with your character. Have them organically pick things up or put them down. If they’re in the kitchen have them get a glass of water during a lengthy and intense conversation. If they’re in a store have them bump into people or go to great lengths to avoid them.
You can use the setting to influence your character’s mood as well. How many times have you read a book or watched a movie and during the protagonist’s trial it’s raining? Being really hot or really cold can put me in a bad mood sometimes, it can your character as well. Do you love rain and hate sunshine? Your character might too. Love the feel of carpet under your bare feet? Your character could as well.
More Than A Place
Your setting is more than a room. It’s the weather, the time of day, and other living beings too. If your character walks into a crowded room and it grows silence upon their approach, don’t tell me that doesn’t set the tone of what’s to transpire. If your character walks into a crowded pig pen, well, that depends on how they feel about pigs. The setting is the feel of the place you’re in. It can be at night in a forest. How would you feel? That crowded room with quiet people staring at you. How would that feel? What’s most important in the setting isn’t the room itself, but the feeling it portrays to both the reader and character. If I walked into our example crowded room the last thing I would notice is the crystal chandelier.
Replace Weak Words
One of the ways to combat lengthy set up is to use stronger adjectives and verbs. Go back to my Passive vs Active blog for more detailed explanation. Don’t ever use “very,” “really,” or “a lot” to describe something. Instead of “really bright light” you can use “piercing light.” Instead of saying “thick fog covered the ground” you could try for “mist engulfed the landscape.” Replace those weak words and try to clean up and tighten your setting paragraph as much as possible.
I love a good setting, but sometimes when I read page after page of description I would think, “Let’s get on with it already.” That’s of course just my opinion. If you want to write pages about how the sun hits your character’s favorite parlor chair, go for it!
Until Next Time…
Setting is an important character in the play that is your novel. Never leave it out or skimp on it, but try not to dwell on it for too long. Just like most steps involved in a well rounded novel it has to walk that fine line. Now, get to your NaNoWriMo! We’re on the last leg of the journey to that shiny new 50k novel. I believe in you! 😀
Dragon Bloode: Covet is out everywhere ebooks are sold.