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Writing Tutorials: Describing Setting, Examples of How to Describe and Create Setting

Updated on January 3, 2015

Writing Tutorials: Describing Setting

Describing Setting

This hub will enlighten you to ideas which will help you see setting beyond the element of location. Location is NOT the only element of setting. Setting is a beautiful and important part of any narrative. A descriptive setting helps the reader envision where the story actually takes place. It is these descriptive elements, which will add depth and understanding to your writing. I have broken down the elements of setting below and have added reflection questions for you to think about as you develop the skill of describing setting in your writing.

Elements of Setting: Beyond Location

Elements of Setting - Location is not the only element of setting. The following items also affect setting...

  • Time of day
  • Seasons
  • Holidays
  • Social Events
  • Weather
  • Location

Sensory details also provoke setting through the descriptive use of aroma, color, texture, landscapes and light. A good writer can provoke the senses of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

Including even the most routine and mundane of daily tasks can help the reader connect to the events the character is experiencing.
Including even the most routine and mundane of daily tasks can help the reader connect to the events the character is experiencing. | Source

Setting: Time

Take into consideration the time of day when you are writing. Time of day can influence a reader's memory. For example the morning rush, a relaxed evening or a spooky full moon can season the text for your reader.

Time of day; various phases of the day include; mealtimes, stages of the sun and moon. Consider what thoughts the time of day evokes. Here are some times of day to consider elaborating on...

  • morning
  • afternoon
  • evening
  • midnight
  • dawn
  • dusk
  • twilight
  • breakfast
  • lunch
  • dinner
  • sunrise
  • sunset
  • full moon

Describing the season in your writing helps readers make common connections and it creates imagery through sensory details.
Describing the season in your writing helps readers make common connections and it creates imagery through sensory details. | Source

Setting: Seasons

Each season is unique and carries different events on our respective calendars. Consider what weather each of these seasons hold. How do these seasons affect the landscape? What holidays are common for each respective season? What natural conflicts might these seasons produce? How is nature influenced by these seasons? How is a season different in another region? So, consider weather, region and holidays related to each respective season when you include it in your text.

The four seasons;

  • Winter
  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Fall

Setting: Holidays and Social Events

Holidays and annual events inspire celebration, family and togetherness. How might these holiday settings affect your narrative? How does the character's family respond to the respective holiday or social event? What conflicts might occur at these events? What beautiful memories might be inspired? Is there a family drunk? A family storyteller? What lessons are learned during these events? What are the moral intentions behind these respective holidays and events?

Here is a list of Holidays to consider...

  • A New Year
  • Valentine's Day
  • Easter
  • Mother's Day
  • Father's Day
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

Here some common social events;

  • Weddings
  • Anniversaries
  • Birthday's
  • Births
  • Deaths
  • Bar Mitzvah's
  • Sweet Sixteen’s

Setting: Weather

Weather can play a major role in a narrative. Weather easily affects the mood of many people and can greatly enhance your storyline. Weather is also an element for external conflict - Man versus Nature.

Potentially Catastrophic Weather and Geological Events

  • Tornado
  • Hurricane
  • Earthquake
  • Tsunami

Elements of Weather

  • lightening
  • wind
  • rain
  • hail
  • sleet
  • snow

Effects of Weather - environmental reactions and emotional responses

  • flooding
  • avalanche
  • mudslides
  • loss of life
  • loss of property
  • fear
  • anger
  • bliss (think of a restful and quiet rain)
  • romance (think snuggling)

Setting: Location

Location; A storyline can take place in just about anywhere your imagination desires. Some authors have even stayed within one single location during the full plot while others like to move around. Here are just a few ideas of where a story can take place...

  • home
  • school
  • store
  • hospital
  • forest
  • lake
  • river
  • city
  • farm
  • desert
  • office
  • bus
  • plane
  • subway
  • boat
  • tourist spots - Las Vegas, New York City, Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower...

When writing a descriptive setting you will want to take into consideration the different elements within each of the elements above. You will want to illustrate (through words) the scenery for your readers. For example; the coldness of the hospital floor, the intertwining smell of sweat and cherry bubble gum on the school bus or the stench next to the wooden pig trough.

Writing a Story: Sensory Details

Sensory Details create depth in your setting...


Yes, aroma can affect your setting for both the reader and your characters. Aromas provoke sensory details as well as memories. Here are some to consider...

  • The smell of fresh rain
  • The aroma of freshly baked pastries
  • The aroma of meals
  • The stench of burnt rubber
  • The scent of a fragrance
  • Exhaust in a metropolitan area
  • The concession stands at a game
  • The scent of a freshly trimmed Christmas tree

Elaborating on sounds from your respective setting will help your reader capture the described surroundings. Examples;

  • A distance bird call over a serene lake
  • The screeching of brakes during rush hour traffic
  • A coach's whistle on a football field
  • The popping of popcorn
  • The rhythm of rain falling over the porch

Imagery is the most important element in descriptive writing. Allow the readers to visualize the setting through your words.

  • The sun seemed suspended for one last moment just before dipping behind the mesa.
  • The rural hills of Ohio greeted me with autumn's glory. God must have a paintbrush, I thought. The trees appeared hand painted with shades of reds, oranges, greens and gold.
  • The full moon glistened over the lake and I was mesmerized. Suddenly, the crackle of the fire alerted me to the burning of my marshmallow.

Touch also creates depth to a descriptive setting.

  • I saw the time and quickly rose from the breakfast table. Only to be delayed when I found my hand in a puddle of sticky syrup.
  • Grandpa's stubble tickled my lips when I leaned in to kiss him goodnight.
  • The fire had reached our door. I could feel the radiating heat beating against the wood.

Taste is a wonderful sensory detail. Many holidays and social events revolve around meals.

  • I couldn't wait for our meal to begin. Thanksgiving is the only time Grandma makes her wonderfully creamy waldorf salad.
  • The sun beat on my back as I waited for my very cherry snow cone.
  • I could still taste the sting of his cheap whiskey after he had pressed his wet mouth to mine.

Setting: Writing Examples, Tips and Ideas

Here are some more examples I created to illustrate a descriptive setting.

A ray of sunshine glistened off of the glass of my freshly squeezed orange juice.

As I sat in my bedroom the smell of burning pine began to waft up through the sill. I peered outside my window and mom waved. I saw dad and grandpa chopping wood in the crisp afternoon as my brother fueled the fire pit. I peered to the right and caught my sister devilishly running into the leaves I had raked earlier and figured it was time to join the rest of the family.

The waves crashed onto the shore. Marathons of foam raced towards our feet as we dug for clams.

The Christmas ornaments reflected the awe in our eyes when dad finally lit the tree.

The essence of pine danced through the rooms as the twinkle lights warmed the tree.

The cluttered kitchen smelled of cinnamon, cloves and vanilla as mother graciously prepared our Thanksgiving meal.

The children screeched and giggled outside our dimly lit door as they waited for me to open the door with treats. I grabbed my broom and slowly opened the door.

I sat nervously as paper hearts fluttered over the glittered gymnasium floor. Then, he took my hand and led me to the dance floor. His embrace caused my own heart to flutter and dance with the streamers above.

You are the painter creating the landscape within your reader's imagination. Always consider the cause and effect of setting elements. What emotions, memories or actions might the setting provoke?

Be inspired to embrace the beauty of descriptive text and apply a greater attention to detail in your respective settings.

This hub is one in a series of writing tutorials by MissOlive

Writing a Personal Narrative

Describing a Character

Creative Writing


all of MissOlive's hubs are authored by;

marisa hammond olivares, copyright 2011


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    • esatchel profile image


      3 years ago from Kentucky

      This is a very thorough hub full of useful information. I don't write fiction but even with nonfiction there are times description could be better.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      4 years ago from Texas

      Thank you Aliur! I'm thrilled you have found this to be beneficial, I appreciate the vote up.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      A great hub to read! :) Thanks a lot. Looking forward to read it again. It's beneficial. Voted up!

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Sparklingcrystal, thank you very much. I am very glad to hear you found this to be useful. Happy writing!

      A1an, thank you, I appreciate you reading and commenting.

    • A1an profile image

      Alan Ford 

      5 years ago

      Appreciate the helpful insights shared within this post, Thank You!

    • sparklingcrystal profile image


      5 years ago from Manila

      I'm glad you shared this topic. I love writing short stories and often times I find it hard to describe the settings in which the story takes place. These information are very helpful.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Jins, I'm glad you found it though. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am really sorry I couldn't come across this hub before. It is extremely useful for me.

      a language teacher.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      kelleyward, thank you so much for stopping by to read, comment, vote and share. You rock!

      Levertis Steele, thanks! That is an amazing compliment. I greatly appreciate you sharing and voting.

      cclitgirl, hi Cyndi! Thank you so very much for your lovely comment, tweets and votes. You are one heck of a hubber and have shared many fascinating settings with your wonderful photographs. I bet you could easily whip up a setting description. Glad to see you.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Your writing tutorials are professional and extraordinarily helpful! I have bookmarked this one so that I refer back to it as I write my own pieces. Nice job here. Voted up and tweeted.

    • Levertis Steele profile image

      Levertis Steele 

      7 years ago from Southern Clime

      How thorough and educational! I imagine that you could conduct some awesome writing courses for hubbers who want to hone their writing skills. Thanks for sharing!

      I am sharing, voting up, useful, and interesting.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a great resource. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and useful and shared. Kelley

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Jlbowden, your amazing comment is such a wonderful compliment. I am truly touched and thoroughly thrilled that you have found my writing tutorials useful. To know that they have inspired you is a true gift for this humbled writer. Thank you so very much. Best wishes with the completion and success of your forthcoming novel. I look forward to hearing about its release.

    • Jlbowden profile image

      James Bowden 

      7 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Wow-just what the writer ordered and I have to thank a fellow hubber for providing me the link to nothing but a motivational and inspirational conglomeration of useful information. I am in the process of trying to complete a romance novel that has been put on hold for years. Your information within this article will certainly give me the essential tools I need to finish up that novel. Again missolive thanks for sharing awesome information which I voted up as well.


    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Docmo, Thank you very much! Your lovely comment really made my day, thanks! :)

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      This is beautifully written, formatted and thoroughly explanatory. I loved the way you have categorized setting and covered all bases. You are a wonderful instructor and this hub will benefit many! voted up and awesome.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      tillsontitan, You are absolutely correct, depth is very important. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub and I appreciate your votes as well, thank you.

      racksjackson, thank you so much! I'm happy you liked it.

    • racksjackson profile image


      7 years ago from New York

      Thanks for sharing Writing Tutorials setting which is very important of any narrative. I love This HP because of presentation. Voting Up and follow your nice thoughts .

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      Something we can all pay heed to...describing more in depth. Settings, obviously, set the pace for our writings and your examples are so descriptive and easy to follow. This is a great hub for beginners and experienced hubbers alike. We can always learn something and this hub is a great example of what we need to remember. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Rusticliving, thank you Lisa! I'm glad you came across this hub. You're right, the elements of setting can be applied to other areas. However, writing that is rich with sensory details and imagery are very appealing to me. Thanks for the votes and shares! :)

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Liz Rayen 

      7 years ago from California

      I simply love and agree with this hub! When you really ponder the "elements of setting" ideas, it can also apply to us any other aspects of our daily lives. These points are so perfect to apply to all that we do! Voted up and all the way across! oh yes.. and shared as well! :)

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      hectordang - lol, that was funny. I'm glad you found this useful. Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

    • hectordang profile image


      7 years ago from New York

      Wait, where am I? Did I arrive at the right hub? Can you tell me where I am? Just kidding. Thanks fo this hub! It'll be good for my middle school English students!

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      must65gt - What a great comment Stuart. Yes, characters need life and depth. So does setting. I'm thrilled you are bookmarking this. I appreciate you coming by.

      susanm23b - Thank you very much. I LOVE teaching and evaluating sensory details. They make a great difference when creating characters and settings. I'm very happy to know you enjoyed my hub. Thank you for your lovely comment, for reading and for the vote too! :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a really excellent overview and break-down of all of the many elements that can make up an interesting setting. What a great "check list" this would be as well. Those sensory details can make such a difference. I really enjoyed this very useful hub! Voted up!

    • must65gt profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for offering this information. Too often i read a hub and am turned away because the hub lacks detail and seems more like a rambling thought pattern. Characters for me, need to jump off the page and engage the reader. I enjoy writing poetry as well and I believe these same elements can be used, when setting the stage of a poem. I will bookmark this and refer to it often. Thanks, Stu.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      sholland10 - Thank you Susan. I am truly honored to read your wonderful comment. I know you are an outstanding teacher and I highly value your opinion and experience. I like the example of the storm and climactic moments. Illustrating high tension through our words is a wonderful skill and writing goal. Thank you for your votes and for sharing.

      barryrutherford - you are so sweet! Thank you Barry! I enjoy your hubs as well. I'm thrilled you came by. Thanks again.

      Brian Slater - Thank you Brian. I'm glad to share what I know and I enjoy teaching these setting building elements. I appreciate your votes.

      Jennifer Essary - That is such a wonderful example. Learning to 'show' our thoughts instead of 'telling' makes us more prolific in our writing styles. Thank you for sharing and for your votes.

    • Jennifer Essary profile image

      Jennifer Essary 

      7 years ago from Idaho

      Wonderful Hub on a topic I'm trying to learn more about. I didn't study creative writing in school but I'd like to be able to "show" instead of "tell" with my writing. Thanks for the tips. Voted up, useful, and sharing.

    • BRIAN SLATER profile image

      Brian Slater 

      7 years ago from England

      Loved reading this series MissOlive, we can all learn so much from you, voted up awesome :)

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 

      7 years ago from Queensland Australia

      You know how i feel about your Hubs. agree with all the other positive comments!

      Luv your work

      Barry x

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 

      7 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Marissa, this is a very useful hub for creative writers. I always tell my students if there is a storm of any kind going on, they need to expect high tension and climatic moments. I love your examples with description. I need work in that area. Great Hub! :-) Votes and shares!

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      dahoglund - thank you for reading and writing. I am a big fan of imagery and sensory details. I appreciate you stopping by to read and respond. My apologies for my late response.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      You are right about paying more attention to the details of setting. I'll work harder at trying to use more detail in my fiction.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      nenytridiana - Thank you! Glad you came by and extra happy that you are inspired.

      thougtforce - I'm honored to know you have been inspired and that you enjoyed my formatting. Your comment motivates me. Thank you for reading, voting and commenting.

      anunez49 - Glad to have you come by to read and comment - thanks for the vote! :)

    • anunez49 profile image


      7 years ago from New York

      Great hub! Very helpful, I know I will be coming back to read this when I write my hubs again. voted up!

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 

      7 years ago from Sweden

      To read this gives me so much inspiration and I think I will try to write something myself. I can at least try to if it is not good I can leave it unpublished:)

      Your hubs are both helpful and inspirational. On top of it all, they also look so good and are so well designed! Thanks for the double inspiration. Voted up, bookmarked and more


    • nenytridiana profile image


      7 years ago from Probolinggo - Jawa Timur - Indonesia

      Great! you have explained clearly. My future hub will be inspired by this hub. Vote up! More Thank you from me missolive!

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      riaha - You are very welcome - glad to know this has been helpful

      Audrey - I enjoyed coming up with the examples - I had to shorten a few of them since I kept getting carried away - lol

      molometer - hello! I understand - I'm going to need to come up with a thesaurus for comments - lol HEY! that sounds like a great hub idea! ;) Thanks for the bookmark and vote up. I'll be posting that Reading hub we talked about in the near future - it's just been a hectic week at work. Friday tomorrow!

    • molometer profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Yet another brilliant hub.

      I have run out of superlatives.

      Bookmarked and voted up.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      7 years ago from California

      Lovely hub and great examples! Thank you!

    • rlaha profile image


      7 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

      Thanks for this! I really need to improve my scenery descriptions and this was extremely helpful and insightful for me.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      go for it!!!

      - have fun with it. Even if you don't publish online you can keep a journal. I've been sitting on an unpublished creative writing hub for three days. I keep tweaking it! lol Eventually I'll get brave and click "publish" :)

      Glad you stopped by and left such a great comment.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great stuff, missolive. I've never taken a crack at fiction before - I tend to be more prosaic in my writing style - but reading these hubs of yours makes me wonder if I should. hmmm...

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      These days I'm doing many creative writing hubs, I don't know how well I have described setting, but I do realize your points. In my short life as an online story writer I have noticed you have to forget many things that your writing instructor told you. People do not intend to read longer works (my 700 words stories are read by more people than 1000 words, despite the later being better written.) When you think about word limit, you have to compromise with many elements of the story. Having said that I try to use many elements of the story when I write for print.

      Thanks for sharing your idea.

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      7 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Missolive, this is inspired work. It has me thinking of how I can spice up old hubs to improve them and create new ones as well. Thanks! Voted up, useful and awesome.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      More tools for my writing tool chest. Thanks for sharing! Flag up!

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      homesteadbound - thanks for taking the time to comment and bookmark.

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      I have this one bookmarked and look forward to reading it again when I am not so tired. It has a lot of good info.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Rebecca, I am truly glad to see you came by to read my hub. I'm glad to feature one of your hubs/links. Thank you for your thoughtful comment...I'm truly grateful.

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 

      7 years ago from Canada

      thanks for the links, and for the mention I was so pleased to come and read this lovely hub. Much thanks!

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      @realhousewife - thank you so much for reading my hub! I'm glad to hear you bookmarked this. I'm especially glad to hear you were inspired with ideas - too cool! Writers at any level can always use a refresher - honored you plan to follow :)

      @Patkay - Glad to hear this was useful to you as well. You have left me a great complement! Thank you for stopping by and reading!

      Readers - I'll be posting another hub for this series later today - Thanks Again!

    • Patkay profile image

      Patrick Kamau 

      7 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Quite useful information here, and a well written and presented hub. The examples you have given are precise to the point. I will have to check the other hubs.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Awesome! This is one to be bookmarked for sure. It was giving me ideas as quickly as I read it!

      Thanks a bunch - I will love following the series. I still feel like a baby writer so I can really use the help!

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Daniella - what a wonderful compliment! I am so glad to hear you have found this hub helpful and informative! Continued best wishes on your novel, MissOlive

      Thanks for the vote up and useful!

    • Daniella Lopez profile image

      Danielle Lopez 

      7 years ago from Spain

      This hub is exactly what I was needing today! The section of my novel that I've been stumped on for the past few days has been in relation to the setting. Thank you very much for the wealth of information. Voted up and useful!


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