22 April 2016


**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE REVISION PROJECT. Topics I come across while I write the third draft of my novel, Uneven Lines.**

Yeah, some people like the bright lights, the noises, pushing through crowds of people without caring whose feet you step on. Me, not so much. 

One of the elements you have to decide for your story is where it takes place. This can involve the overall setting (a city), or just where each scene takes place (a particular room). The setting should always feel right, both for the story and for each individual scene. 

When you're choosing your overall setting, you want to think about what works for the story. This can include place as well as time period. I wanted my story to take place in modern day New York City for a few different reasons. A major reason is that I needed a place where a teenager would be able to get around on his own and without a lot of money. I lived in a suburb when I was growing up and the only way you could get around was if your parents drove you. Kind of hard to sneak around and pull off a secret relationship. I needed Jordan to have a certain level of independence and the setting is a huge part of that. He can just hop on the subway and go wherever he wants. If I set the story in a different place, it may not be as believable and a lot of elements would have to change. 

When you're describing your setting, you'll want to include what's important to the scene. This could be a building or just a piece of furniture. A lot of my scenes take place indoors so there's a lot of describing couches and kitchen appliances. But I try not to overdo it, to not mention something unless it's actually being used. When Jordan first visits Tom's apartment, we get an overall description of what it looks like, but after that, there are only references to certain things throughout the book whenever it's necessary. You don't have to give vast descriptions of every single place in every scene. Just give whatever's necessary. 

Certain settings can be right or wrong depending on what is happening in each individual scene, as well. Maybe an argument between your characters shouldn't take place while they're scuba diving (although that could be funny...). Or a very private conversation probably shouldn't happen in a public place. Ok, I actually broke my own rule. A private conversation takes place between my characters in a diner. But when it was the first draft, the things they were saying were a bit on the extreme side. Rather than changing the setting for the conversation, I changed the conversation for the setting. I think it actually helped in the long run because now the dialogue is more subdued and not so ridiculous. 

Whatever you choose for your setting, you want it to work for your story. It can be as important or unimportant as you want it to be, as long as it's believable. 

How do you choose setting? 


  1. With the exception of my fantasy story, I try to choose settings I'm familiar with so that it's more authentic. For example, I have a few stories set in and around Boston, because I love it there.

  2. The action dictates the setting for me. I once wanted to write about sinkholes and when I learned that Florida has the most of any state, I put my story there.

  3. There is always a lot of action or intimacy going on in my space opera romances so setting is very important.

    Susan Says

  4. I've learned that it's usually best not to describe a setting (for example, a coffee shop) using details that would work for all coffee shops, but to mention those details that make your setting different form all the other coffee shops.

  5. I'm gradually introducing setting into my stories. For the longest time, I avoided it, but I don't think it hurt the story because they still got published. ThenI read a novel set in New Orleans once, and it was so fixed in the place I suddenly got how setting could really pull the reader in.

  6. As I brainstorm the story, I try to imagine the setting and what would take place. For example, I'm brainstorming a story where a dating couple is arguing over a missed call. It would be easy to set the story in a public place, but I think to make the story more intimate, I think setting the story in one of the MC's home makes better sense.

    G. R. McNeese from
    Project Blacklight

  7. Loving your posts, Sarah... very helpful as I am drafting my current story.

    Joy @ The Joyous Living

  8. You can have a conversation while scuba diving. Watching Destination Truth, the host is always talking while scuba diving. He's got like a microphone in his breather or something. =P LOL

    ~Ninja Minion Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  9. The few little details really help to make the setting stand out. Believable is very important! :)

  10. One's setting can become a character in itself, think of Middle Earth... or a lesser known novel like Islandia.

  11. For my current work in progress, setting was easy. I'm in love with Paris and it suited the art reference perfectly. I seem to be drawn to writing historical fiction, in which case, the setting is pre-determined. But I love your suggestion of citing only necessary details rather than giving an global description.

  12. I like the idea of setting and place used as character to add to and move the story forward. One of the best authors for that is L.M. Montgomery. Her descriptions make the book live in the mind. There is not a lot that I have found written about that in particular, but there are few.

    Sometimes fewer words said except what is different can really bring a setting alive. I am not fond of info dumps and often skip over them to the good parts.

    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit