Location, Location, Location! Where (and When) Does Your Story Take Place?

Photo by  Nathan Wright  on  Unsplash

Now that we’ve gotten to know our main characters, it’s time to focus on giving them a place to live and breathe in the story. But first a word of caution: please don’t ignore the importance of setting! Give your setting just as much thought as you give any other element of your story.

Settings matter to stories.

In fact, they can almost act like another character if done right. Settings saturate your story with mood, with atmosphere. Think about some of your favorite books and movies. Now consider the setting. How did the setting affect the tone and mood of each story?

Elements of the setting can include components such as the physical location, the climate, geography, time period, and seasons, to name just a few.

How to Develop the Setting for Your Story

Consider the following elements of story setting as you draft your description. Just as with the character questionnaire, you don’t have to answer each of the following questions in depth, but you can use them as a guide.

1 |  Where does your story take place? What is the physical location? This can be a fictional or real town, a house, an office building, a library, a school. The options are endless. Is it a haunted house, lending an ominous feel to your story? Or is it maybe a brand new office building or school? Maybe it’s a farm or an island. A city or a ghost town. Choose the physical location that best suits the type of story you’re telling.

2 |  What is the time period of your story? Does it take place in the future? Or maybe you want to place your characters in an era long past. Your story might take place in the Civil War era or in medieval times. Just remember to allot time for research if writing in a different time period than what you’re able to experience firsthand, past or future.

3 |  What is the climate like? Is your character in a snowed-in bed and breakfast in the mountains or sitting on a tropical beach soaking up the sun? Climate has the ability to affect events and how people react, what type of clothes they wear, and what predicaments they may find themselves in. What’s the weather like in any given scene? Consider how a lightning and thunderstorm can impact the mood and tone of a scene. Or how stories taking place in the fall or summer can differ in mood and tone.

Once you get a general idea of what your setting looks like, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What makes this particular setting important to the story?

  • How does this setting relate to your main characters?

  • What would happen to the story if you chose a different setting?

  • How does the setting affect your main characters and events?

  • Will your setting change over the course of the story? Possibly changing tone and mood as the story progresses?

PRO TIP: Remember to leave enough time for research, especially if you’re writing within an unfamiliar place, a different time period, or doing any sort of world building.

This is not an all-inclusive list of things to consider when developing your setting, but it should give you a running start. Feel free to add to it as necessary for your particular story.

Now it’s your turn to develop your story’s setting.

Go write!