When you examine any book on writing, the author has broken fiction down into three very important key elements: plotting, character, and setting. Characters have already been discussed. If you are new to this writing series, you can find my post on character writing here. Plotting shall be discussed next time.
Setting is very crucial to a story because it is the world in which your characters live and interact in. This world can be a real place or it can be fictional such as Middle Earth from Tolkien’s amazing series The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Or even the beautiful realm of Narnia from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.
Some real places you can set your story in could be any state within the United States or perhaps even a country in Europe. Or perhaps you would like to have the story take place in outer space.
Whether or not the setting is fictional or real, the key is to make it as real as possible. This is done through the art of description. When building your world, keep these 12 points in mind.
- Locale. This relates to broad categories such as a country, state, region, city, and town, as well as to more specific locales, such as a neighborhood, street, house or school. Other locales can include shorelines, islands, farms, rural areas, etc.
- Time of year. The time of year is richly evocative and influential in fiction. Time of year includes the seasons, but also encompasses holidays, such as Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Halloween. Significant dates can also be used, such as the anniversary of a death of a character or real person, or the anniversary of a battle, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor.
- Time of day. Scenes need to play out during various times or periods during a day or night, such as dawn or dusk. Readers have clear associations with different periods of the day, making an easy way to create a visual orientation in a scene.
- Elapsed time. The minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months a story encompasses must be somehow accounted for or the reader will feel confused and the story will suffer from a lack of authenticity. While scenes unfold moment by moment, there is also time to account for between scenes, when a flashback is inserted, and when a character travels a long distance.
- Mood and atmosphere. Characters and events are influenced by weather, temperature, lighting, and other tangible factors, which in turn influence the emotional timbre, mood, and atmosphere of a scene.
- Climate. Climate is linked to the geography and topography of a place, and, as in our real world, can influence events and people. Ocean currents, prevailing winds and air masses, latitude, altitude, mountains, land masses, and large bodies of water all influence climate. It’s especially important when you write about a real setting to understand climatic influences. Harsh climates can make for grim lives, while tropical climates can create more carefree lifestyles.
- Geography. This refers to specific aspects of water, landforms, ecosystems, and topography in your setting. Geography also includes climate, soil, plants, trees, rocks and minerals, and soils. Geography can create obvious influences in a story like a mountain a character must climb, a swift-running river he must cross, or a boreal forest he must traverse to reach safety. No matter where a story is set, whether it’s a mountain village in the Swiss Alps or an opulent resort on the Florida coast, the natural world with all its geographic variations and influences must permeate the story.
- Man-made geography. There are few corners of the planet that have not been influenced by the hand of humankind. It is in our man-made influences that our creativity and the destructiveness of civilization can be seen. Readers want visual evidence in a story world, and man-made geography is easily included to provide it. With this in mind, make certain that your stories contain proof of the many footprints that people have left in its setting. Use the influences of humankind on geography to lend authenticity to stories set in a real or famous locale. These landmarks include dams, bridges, ports, towns and cities, monuments, burial grounds, cemeteries, and famous buildings. Consider too the influences of mankind using the land, and the effects of mines, deforestation, agriculture, irrigation, vineyards, cattle grazing, and coffee plantations.
- Eras of historical importance. Important events, wars, or historical periods linked to the plot and theme might include the Civil war, World War II, medieval times, the Bubonic Plague, the gold rush in the 1800s, or the era of slavery in the South.
- Social/political/cultural environment. Cultural, political, and social influences can range widely and affect characters in many ways. The social era of a story often influences characters’ values, social and family roles, and sensibilities.
- Population. Some places are densely populated, such as Hong Kong, while others are lonely places with only a few hardy souls. Your stories need a specific, yet varied population that accurately reflects the place.
- Ancestral influences. In many regions of the United States, the ancestral influences of European countries such as Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Poland are prominent. The cities and bayous of Louisiana are populated with distinctive groups influenced by their Native American, French-Canadian, and African American forebears. Ancestral influences can be depicted in cuisine, dialogue, values, attitudes, and general outlook.
These 12 points come from a Writer’s Digest article which you can read here. In addition to figuring out where in the world you would like your story to take place, another element to consider is what time period. Do you want it to be a fantasy novel? Do you want it set in medieval England? Ancient Egypt? Regency or Victorian England? It is all up to you. Additionally, it can be set during a season.
For example, the settings for my two story ideas are vastly different from themselves. My first novel which I am currently plotting/brainstorming is Modern Times set in a fictional town in Massachusetts during the Autumn. And my second one is set in Hawaii during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
If you would like some more information on writing setting, these links have been most helpful.
Where would you like set your story? Is it a fictional or real place? Let me know in the comments down below.
Hello everyone. Before we dive into the next topic in the Writing 101 series, there is a housekeeping issues I’d like to address. I have decided that I will publish writing posts not once but twice a week. You heard correct. That is twice not once a week. These days are Monday and Friday. I am going to try my best to get one done and published on Friday which will begin this new routine. Now for this evening’s topic.
Every book (whether good or bad) has characters. It is not a book or a story with a cast of main characters and secondary characters. As the title suggests, main characters are the ones that drive the story. For example, Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings drive the story. The same goes for Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
What should an author’s characters look like? Most characters are shaped from the author’s experiences. They are a form of who the author knows and of herself. Developing characters that are based on yourself is totally okay too. Many authors before us have done this. I have two examples of this. The first comes from one of my favorite childhood authors: Madeleine L’Engle. She wrote the famous Wrinkle in Time series and the Vicky Austen series. When asked if she was like her heroines, she responded that she was both Meg Murray from A Wrinkle in Time and Vicky Austen. My second example is J.K. Rowling. Rowling based the character of Hermonine a bookish young red head on herself.
Now, how does one go about forming a character? Well, it is safe to say that it is good to start perhaps with a name. Then from there start describe the person. Does she or he have blue eyes? Brown? Hazel? What hair color do they have? Where do they live? But characters are more than just how they look. You need to make them three dimensional. What does that mean? It means you must make your characters as real as possible. Readers must feel as if they characters they are reading about are real. Like someone they have known all their lives. Otherwise they won’t care about the story.
A while back I came across a wonderful worksheet for writing characters. A worksheet that goes beyond just giving your character a name, eye color, and hair color but it goes deeper to help you flesh them out.
I hope you find this chart helpful. Please let me know how forming your characters goes in the comments below. I’d love to hear how it goes! I am also filling out this chart for my characters in my new story. Comment below and I will share how it is going for me as well. Stay tuned for the next installment which will be coming out on Friday. Until then, happy writing!
Good afternoon fellow writers. It is time for part two in our Writing 101 blog series. If you are new here, you can find part 1 here. Now that you have an idea for a story it is time to move on to the next step in the writing process and perhaps the easiest part.
Brainstorming can take on all different shapes and sizes. You can brainstorm characters, character names, setting ideas, and even scenes. To give you a glimpse of how I do brainstorming, I have included a brainstorming list for my current work in progress.
As you can see in the photo above, I did it by means of bullet statements. You can also do it by writing down short phrases. Or even long phrases. It is all up to you.
Just like last week, I have included some homework. However, this time I have provided a worksheet. In this work sheet you will find three different categories. The first one is labelled characters. Underneath this subcategory are five spaces where you can brainstorm who you want your characters to be. But don’t go into too much detail. Save that for when we talk about characters. If you want to be generic (which is totally fine), all you have to do is write girl or boy. If you really want to, you can brainstorm names. The second category is Setting. Just like the characters section, you will find five spaces where you can list the favorite locations you would like to possible set your story in (keep this generic too). The final category is Scenes. It is set up the same as the other two and you can fill it out if you want to or you don’t have to. It is up to you.
So what are you waiting for. Pull up a chair, grab your favorite beverage, print off this handy-dandy worksheet, and start brainstorming.
Hopefully, you have found these posts and exercises helpful. Stay tuned for the next post which will be on…characters.
Many people have asked me how do I start the process for writing a novel. They have also asked me how do I find inspiration/ideas. So I thought I would do a blog series featuring writing. This is the first in the series and you can find more about it here.
So pull up a chair, grab your favorite beverage (mine is tea), and let’s get started. (Just a heads up there will be an assignment at the end of this post. But it shouldn’t be too bad).
First off, there is no one way to start the process of writing a novel. Each author has their own way of how to start that is unique to them. The key is to find one that works for you. For example, some have a vague idea right away. Others have pictured a character or characters. Again, others have a couple of scenes already figured out.
It is all up to you.
For me, it varies. For my WWII novel set in England (which I have put on hold for now), I already had a vague understanding the plot. For my Autumn themed story that is currently in the very early stages, I knew I wanted to have setting of the novel be during the Autumn months in MA because I love the Fall. I also knew who my main characters were.
Okay, homework time.
I want you to grab your favorite notebook and writing utensil. You can use your laptop if you prefer to type. I usually for this stage write it in a notebook and then transfer it to the computer later on. Now, I want you to write down five ideas that could be potential stories. Don’t feel bad if you can only come up with one and two. It is a start.
The most important thing to remember is to have fun. Writing a novel should be fun.
These past couple of days I have been Facebook chatting with my friend, Emmalisa. She is a fellow blogger (you can find her blog here at Exquisite Emmalisa), Anglophile, book lover, and aspiring writer. The topics of our conversation have been wide-versed but one particular topic is writing specifically how to begin a novel.
So I thought why don’t I start a new blog series? A series where I can write about writing topics such as brainstorming, character development, plotting, etc.
It is called Writing 101 with Gabrielle Emmons. You can find the official series page here.
This is the logo I have created for it.
If there are any topics pertaining to the process of writing you would like me to focus on, please leave a comment down below. I will try my best to answer your questions.