Writing Tutorials: Describing Setting, Examples of How to Describe and Create Setting
Writing Tutorials: 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
- Social Events
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.
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...
- full moon
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;
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
- Mother's Day
- Father's Day
Here some common social events;
- Bar Mitzvah's
- Sweet Sixteen’s
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
Elements of Weather
Effects of Weather - environmental reactions and emotional responses
- loss of life
- loss of property
- bliss (think of a restful and quiet rain)
- romance (think snuggling)
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...
- 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.