How to Choose the Right Setting for Your Story

How to Choose the Right Setting for Your Story, Renea Guenther, Planning Your Novel, Story Development, Setting, Genre

The right setting can bring a story to life for the reader

They can increase tension, capture the imagination, change the story’s pace.

A story might have an elaborate and detailed setting or hint at one, leaving it up to the readers to fill in the details.

All are effective in their own way, and the types of settings you might use will vary depending on genre and the story you want to tell.

However, sometimes it can be challenging to choose the right setting.

So, how do you decide where your story should take place?

List settings common to your genre

A lot of times readers are drawn to particular genres because of the setting in which the story is set.

For example: In a fantasy setting, we might expect medieval castles, a wilderness setting, or fantastical cities.

Or for science fiction, spaceships, strange planets, or unusual phenomenon

So, a good place to start the process is to review settings readers might expect to see in your genre

However, while we don’t disappoint our readers, sometimes a story calls for a setting outside the norm

So, don’t feel as if you’re limited to only these settings.

Feel free to experiment if you think something else fits your story better.

Perhaps a change setting will give your story a new twist others haven’t considered before.

Decide how large of setting you might need

Your setting needs plenty of room to carry the story.

We can’t do every scene in one location without the story becoming boring fast.

Your story will need a variety of locations within the overall setting to keep things interesting.

Some stories span continents or even several planets, others might focus on a single city.

It all will depend on the genre and the story’s plot.

For example: Romance favors smaller settings such as a small town or a city, while thrillers might cover many cities or countries.

Another thing to consider is how much effort you will need to put into making your setting.

If you choose a real setting, you’ll need to research your locations to keep them as accurate as possible.

Whereas if your setting is fictional, you’ll have more work on your hands creating every little detail, but it will allow you the freedom to express your creativity however you like.

Make a list of your favorite places

Now you know the settings your readers favor and how large of an area your story needs, are there any places you love that might fit the bill?

We all have places we hold dear to our hearts, whether they be real or fictional.

Why not consider using one of them in your story if it’s focused on the real world.

There’s no reason you couldn’t do something similar for a fictional setting.

Figure out what draws you to the place and try adding some of those elements to your story.

For example: I love using details from the Greeks and Romans. I also like medieval castles and armaments.

It’s a lot easier to write things you love or, at the very least, have some familiarity.

Passion breeds creativity.

If you can find a way to bring it to your story wherever you can, it’ll show in your writing and attract readers who share the same passion.

List locations that enhance the story

By now you should already have an idea of what your story’s going to be about, your character’s background, and cultures you want to explore.

Choose settings that fit your story’s tone and enhance your character’s mood.

Light and color have a significant impact on both and can be the determining factor in whether your story’s setting will be considered dark and dreary or lighthearted and bright.

So, you want to choose settings that are appropriate to the theme and genre.

Setting can also make all the difference in increasing tension or making conflict more difficult.

A location unfamiliar to the protagonist can create hazards one that is familiar cannot.

For example: Two characters grappling for an item is much more interesting atop a cliff than on flat ground.

A swordfight amongst dangerous ruins or a bloody battlefield is much better than one amongst the flowers.

You want something that makes sense as well as increases interest.

It’s all about choosing the right location for the story you want to tell.



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Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.

She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.

She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.

From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.

She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.

When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.

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5 thoughts on “How to Choose the Right Setting for Your Story

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