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Ken Brosky

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Creating a realistic setting in your fiction novel
By Ken Brosky
Last edited: Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2011

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Recent articles by
Ken Brosky

• Five places to find a plot for your novel
• How to build your author web site
• 4 tips for beating writer's block
• A beginner's guide to writing a novel
• Places to find an agent or publisher
• Tips for re-writing and editing your writing
• How to give your narrator a voice
           >> View all 26
Writers creating a fictional story can often struggle with settings and places. Here are some simple tips that will help readers visualize your world.

For writers, creating a fictional setting can be both a boon and a bane. For those who don't want to create a world similar to what might be found on earth, the only limit is an imagination. But even when a writer isn't relying on a local landmark, it can be difficult to provide the details necessary for readers to visualize the setting. It's important for the reader to "see" the world in the same way as the writer, otherwise writers run the risk of losing their readers.

Here are some tips to help writers develop setting:

Use Pictures for Details in Your Novel

Writers can use pictures on Google to find just about any type of setting. Looking for a playground? A skyscraper? A bean-shaped silver sculpture the size of a pickup truck? All of these can be found on Google. Once writers have a picture, they can alter it however they want, picking and choosing the details they want for the setting in their story. They can look up more pictures and combine details in order to create an entirely new setting. Found a meadow with the perfect tree, but hate the flat background? Look up another picture with mountains in the background. Write about the tree and put the mountains in the background.

Travel to Exotic Locations

Or just travel to the next town over! It doesn't matter where writers go as long as they take good notes. It's hard to write about the world without going out and actually experiencing it. The neighborhood of Saint Francis, WI is quiet and filled with small one-story residential homes. Just a mile south is the town of Cudahy. It has similar houses and it's pretty quiet. It also has a long row of mom and pop businesses and two massive factories. One of those factories is a pork plant. In the morning, when the air is cool and dry, the entire town smells like hot dogs.

Write What You Know

Do a little research before getting into the more intimate details of the setting. Before a writer puts a palm tree in a meadow with mountains in the background, look up whether palm trees grow near mountains. Before putting a character in a lake with a canoe, look up the yoke, the keel and the spraydeck. Look up what kinds of fish should be in a small lake compared to a big lake.

Writers should never pass up an opportunity to take what they know about their homes, their schools, and their workplaces and insert those qualities into the setting of a fictional novel. The more detailed and consistent the setting is, the easier it will be for readers to visualize.

Web Site More tips at Final Draft Literary

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