How important is setting to your story? Let’s take a look at some very famous tales, in which the setting is vital.
“…so Little Red Riding Hood set out through the woods to take provisions to her grandmother. Along the way, she came across a wolf…” (“Little Red Riding Rood”, my paraphrase)
Think about it. What if Little Red Riding Hood had come across a wolf in a town? The outcome of this story would have been very different. If the Big Bad Wolf had ambled into town to speak with Little Red, don’t you think the townspeople would have backed her up and taken the wolf down? They have to have some weaponry somewhere in Little Red’s town, right? I think so.
“…A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
A LOT of people know this intro. Star Wars, right? And what would Star Wars be without Outer Space? A lot more boring, let me tell you.
So, why do we need good settings? Why are they so important?
Setting targets genres
This may seem a little bit confusing, but trust me, it isn’t. Oftentimes, genre is determined by where you decide to set your story. Post-apocalyptic, Science-Fiction, Historical, etc. They all have to do with your setting.
Choose your setting wisely, and let the readers in that genre KNOW you chose well. Make it fit.
Setting sets the mood
Some settings, like the “post-apocalyptic-but-still-eerily-familiar” world in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, give a quirky, strange feel to the story. You can use a setting to enhance your characters, lending a mood of change. Settings are diverse, nearly unlimited, and they are as important to your story and mood as your characters and plot.
How do I know where to set my story?
Usually, your setting should be the one that feels right. An epic swordfight in the middle of New York City is highly improbable, unless your New York has backslidden and now has no way to make modern weapons. (Or if your character is Henry from ABC’s Forever, but that is highly unlikely)
So, take a long look at your characters and ask yourself where they would fit. Where they would seem natural. Look at their talents and fears and throw them into a world where their story makes sense.
One last tip
Your characters deserve the perfect setting. And I believe you’ll know if your setting is “off”. If you find yourself in a story that you love, but it seems like something is wrong, look at your setting. Maybe it should change.
Be creative with your setting. Underwater fist fight (James Bond). A giant, villainous home base under the Polar Icecap (G.I. Joe). Someone came up with these, and people loved them. You can come up with something just as good, probably better! Let your creativity roam. Expand your horizons. Think outside the box.
Are your characters in Boston? Did you know there are underground tunnels beneath that city?
Are they in space? How about some wacky, new-fangled spaceship?
Settings are as vast as your imagination. So go out there and write some crazy awesome stories!
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