How to develop a fictional setting

How to develop a fictional setting

Constructing a setting template to develop your story’s world

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 In its simplest form, setting is the combination of time and place for your story. It can include not only physical environment but any cultural factor that may impact the behavior and thoughts of a character. When combined with solid character development, a rich setting will make your writing process easier and add believability to your story’s plot. This article will provide an overview on how to develop and organize setting details for easy reference while you’re writing a novel.


Step 1

First, set up a basic way of organizing your setting materials

When writing larger projects like a novel or novel series, you need a way to access your research material as you write. This can be accomplished with the use of physical documents (file folders, notebooks, etc.) or digital files (Word documents, database files, etc.). Everyone has a different style of organization, so it make take some trial and error to find out what works best for you.

While not all of your background information may remain the same by the time you reach the end of your book, doing the majority of your research and setting development at the beginning of your process will make everything else go smoother. This will later allow you to focus more on finer details and minor changes.

Step 2

Decide on your big picture elements

What kind of mood do you want your setting to convey? Is it going to change from scene to scene or remain consistent throughout the story? What is your time frame? What are your main locations?

In some cases, drawing out a rough map will give you a visual representation of your setting, and you can then create seperate files for each area. Spend some time imagining yourself in each place—putting thought into not just what your characters would see and hear but also taste, touch, and smell.

Step 3

Consider elements of physical environment and biology

This can range from planetary characteristics (mainly sci-fi) to the physical layout of the environment (lakes, rivers, mountains, etc.) What types of plants and animals are your characters going to encounter? How are these elements going to impact your characters?

Step 4

Determine your cultural elements

This can be very broad, including areas such as family and social structure, government, law, religion, politics, traditions, occupations, economy, communications, and technology.

If you’re going for realism, you may not have to alter much and focus on certain elements that will add to your particular story. If you’re starting from scratch, put careful thought into each area so you can have something unique yet clear enough for readers to grasp without a lot of explanation.

Step 5

Consider the impact of the setting on each of your characters

Where do your characters feel safe? Where do they feel anxiety or tension?

Setting will often impact a character’s vocabulary. If you’re creating new words, think of ways you can bring them into context without having to directly explain it.

As a suprise element in your plot, you can have an environment that has been safe many times that becomes compromised—which can have greater impact than an event in a setting where readers would traditionally expect it.

Step 6

Realize that your setting and story have a dynamic connection

Over the course of writing your story, you’re going to see areas where you can improve. As long as it doesn’t damage the continuity of your overall story, it should be an easy process to expand and update your setting research as you progress. This can help you with future books and marketing projects as well.

Things Needed
• Computer with word processing program and/or notebooks and pen
• File folders and cabinet (optional)

Tips & Warnings
• As with any character profiles you develop, make sure you have at least one backup of your digital files—flash drives or a Gmail account are two possible options for this.
• Often when people are new to writing, they have a tendency to dump a lot of details on their readers at once—which can be overwhelming and slow down your plot. As you develop your setting material, realize that you’re going to reveal it over the course of your story. Some details may help you as a writer but not be revealed directly to your readers at all.


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