How to Create a Setting

So, you have an idea of what kind of characters you picture in your story. Without a character, where is the action? Notice the word, where. How are your readers going to know what is going on with your characters if they don’t know where the characters are located? The setting of a story is the location and time frame of where a story takes place. In the television show, The Simpsons, the main setting of the show is in the town Springfield. In the story, To Kill a Mockingbird, the characters are set in Maycomb, Alabama during the 1930s. The author will state where the characters are located and sometimes, will say when it is taking place. Even though the author may say where and when, how is the reader able to visualize what it is like living in the setting, or what it is like during a specific time frame? The author will use senses.

There are five senses: sight, smell, taste, sound, and feel. Without these senses, you will have a hard time conveying how a beautiful flower smells or what a crowded New York subway station sounds like. As the author, you have to have the ability to describe these senses in your work. You want your readers to feel like the story is actually taking place and that they are experiencing the scene you lay out for them.

You can outline a setting by first listing your senses. I am describing a summer cookout in Atlanta, Georgia back in 2009:

  1. See: I see the sun shining its yellow-orange rays. The razor-thin blades of grass in my backyard go out from the porch area towards the rusty gate that is over 100 feet away from me. I see my brother cooking on the grill.
  2. Smell: I smell the steak searing on the grill. Also, I smell the fresh air that is carrying the scent of my girlfriend’s new perfume.
  3. Feel: I feel the summer breeze, yet I can still feel the sun’s warmth against my skin. My right hand is holding a glass of ice cold fruit juice.
  4. Taste: I taste the fruit juice that I had just sipped a few minutes ago.
  5. Hear: I hear the dog barking and my friends talking amongst themselves.

Right now, I will describe a setting putting together the senses. I will use the example of a cookout as a setting and describe how it using my senses. Also, I want to add that it is possible to not use all your senses in your writing, but if they are of importance, make sure you let your reader know:

I am reminiscing of a summer get-together at a friend’s in Atlanta four years ago. The warm sun is bothering me, but I feel a slight breeze. Hopefully, that breeze does not leave. I look up at the sky for a bit and see a sharp bright light--the sun is shining so much that I go for shade underneath a large tree. I am sitting at a table with my girlfriend. The sweet aroma of her new perfume I bought her was sprayed before I sat with her. There is a tall, glass of ice cold fruit punch that I use to quench my thirst in this Atlanta heat. I hear my neighbor’s dog barking and my friends from high school talking about old times. My brother preps a few juicy steaks on the grill. I am so hungry, I can’t wait to eat.

Writing Prompt 1:

Make a well-detailed setting for your character(s). Use the five senses to make your story come to life.

Writing Prompt 2:

Look in your classroom. Describe it using your senses.