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WHERE and WHEN? The importance of setting.

Updated on August 8, 2012
"Lake Pier At Sunset" by Toa55
"Lake Pier At Sunset" by Toa55 | Source

Setting answers the questions of where and when.

Where is not a time but a place. Location determines so much of our characters and can be an important part of the characterization process. Think about it: the differences of city versus country life; a farm owned by a family or a closed community each can bring different depth to the story.

When we look at demographics, we also look at location. Imagine if a horror movie takes place at a large discount store versus in the woods or if the love story is in the battlefield versus at a drive thru restaurant. The where of the story has potential to make your story even more intriguing to its readers.

Setting also includes the elements of weather and atmosphere. Weather can play a large part in some stories and in others it may be only a minute factor. It can however set the tone of the book, giving the reader a bit of insight of what to expect in the story.

Looking at when, the time period chosen can also define certain constraints and of course provide more of the overall storyline. Depending on the time period of a story, it can depict the lack of technology or the abundance thereof; it can decide how characters interact - based on the ideologies of the time and even how romance and love are reciprocated. Choosing a time period determines an aspect of the plot and places limitations on what can be done in the story (unless you are writing more steam punk and/or alternate universe tales).

When I first started writing Thou Shall Not, it was set in Scotland (it also started off as a paranormal romance). I chose Scotland because of its rich history and lore. The Scottish setting would have allowed me to bring certain magical elements to my story that Richmond, VA couldn't. That is not to say that magic doesn't exist here, but the setting I needed didn't work for that story.

That being said here are my four tips to finding the right setting for your story.

1. Determine your story's genre. Horror is usually in one location; while thrillers can be world wide. The location can help you to create a layer of suspense, conflict, lust, hate - an array of emotions in the rainbow of human experiences based on where you decide your story should be set.

2. Setting does not only mean a particular city; it can even be a simple location. Your entire story can take place on a farm if that is what you wish or in a cave. But determine the purpose of your setting.

3. Purpose- in writing, every word should count and have a purpose. That being said, determine the purpose of your setting - it should fulfill a role: it could cause conflict, be a catalyst of problems, or it could help your villain to hide in; it could show the conservative nature of your heroine versus the liberalness of your hero. Remember: where we live determines a lot about us, and influences us immensley including our speech pattern, beliefs, eating habits, education,work ethic etc.

4. Chose a time period
The time of the story determines the results; for example, a mystery set in 1840 can't be solved by DNA; a romance between different races in 1910 would face more issues than the same story set in 2010; and, a military coup is different in a story from 510bc versus 1980. The power of time determines how your characters will respond since time is the determining factor of your character and his ideologies, beliefs, habits, socio-economic status, education, work ethic and sexuality.

By allowing your setting to take a deeper role, you let your reader truly experience what it means to be in the world you created. What would Stars Wars be like without space and the death star or Star trek without the Enterprise; better yet, what would Magic Mike be like without the strip club.

Don't be afraid to ask where and when until you hit that magical *g-t* geographical and time spot.

Tina Glasneck is the author of Thou Shall Not. She enjoys creating three-dimensional characters and coming up with new ways to kill her stories. Visit her website: and follow her on Twitter: @TinaGlasneck

THOU SHALL NOT by Tina Glasneck

Thou Shall Not: (Spark Before Dying) (Volume 1)
Thou Shall Not: (Spark Before Dying) (Volume 1)

Bodies are piling up in Richmond, Virginia, mutilated, and tagged. A serial killer metes out justice to those that have escaped it, and Alexandria Xandy Caras is on the list. Two years have passed since the workplace massacre; six months since the day her charge of murder was dismissed. When innocent “fan” letters become aggressive acts, Xandy finds herself seeking help from Police Captain, Victor Hawthorne. He doesn’t believe in coincidences. Can he keep her safe when all signs point to her as being the killer’s ultimate target? Only Xandy’s death can make it all stop, silencing the deranged killer, who wants more than revenge, but true repentance. Some things are worth KILLING for.



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