Physics says: go to sleep. Of course
you’re tired. Every atom in you
has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes
nonstop from mitosis to now.
Quit tapping your feet. They’ll dance
inside themselves without you. Go to sleep.
Geology says: it will be all right. Slow inch
by inch America is giving itself
to the ocean. Go to sleep. Let darkness
lap at your sides. Give darkness an inch.
You aren’t alone. All of the continents used to be
one body. You aren’t alone. Go to sleep.
Astronomy says: the sun will rise tomorrow,
Zoology says: on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle,
Psychology says: but first it has to be night, so
Biology says: the body-clocks are stopped all over town
History says: here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down.
Three things to remember about setting:
- A good setting is, itself, a character, with development.
- A good setting will engage all five senses.
- Your setting is not only your location. It’s the time period, the Zeitgeist, the season, the society.
What I mean by the first one is that the setting should be in a state of flux, just like your characters. Stagnant, static settings are places your characters should try to get away from. Think of the Doldrums from The Phantom Tollbooth. If nothing happens and nothing changes, why is your story happening there? Are we supposed to believe that Something Big like your plot could actually be taking place in a place so dull?
Give your setting a sense of urgency, a sense of change, even if it’s slight. Young adult fiction tends to take place against a high school backdrop, and hoo boy, does that ever provide built-in conflict. Dystopian novels are set in societies where there is either major socio-economic change, or political change, or environmental change, and that’s why we read them. Horror stories are rife with gloomy abandoned houses on howling moors and unsettling small towns. Zombie apocalypses. Major cities. Middle-Earth. All places of constant change.
Secondly, your setting should engage all five senses. That’s easy. What does it look like? What kinds of sounds should we expect to hear? Is it a warm place? A cold place? Does it stink of iron and exhaust fumes, or are we in a high mountain forest? What sort of food is popular here?
Lastly, the other stuff. Your setting exists in both space AND time. (Unless it’s a Tardis, in which case, your setting is wibbly wobbly.) When is this story taking place? What’s the prevailing Zeitgeist? Is this western Michigan in the summer, or western Michigan in the winter? (Lake effect snow is a bitch and a half.)
The society question is rather a large one, if you’re not using modern day Earth as your setting. You’re going to want to give it a lot of thought. Is it something similar to our modern society? Or have we gotten to a kind of Omelas-type place? Is it a society dominated by vampires? Aliens? Mold spores? How does the government work? How many different types of government exist in your setting? Upon which group do most of the responsibilities and expectations lie? Who has the most privileges? Who has the least? Is it a caste system?
Basically, when building your setting, think like your future readers. What would you, a person just being introduced to this world, want to know about it? Why?
Here are a couple other resources on setting in case none of that helped:
Terrible Minds: 25 Things You Should Know About Worldbuilding
Terrible Minds: 10 Things You Should Know About Setting
Use All Five Senses to Bring Your Setting to Life
Are You Using Setting to Deepen Your Characters?
I hope that big long ramble helped you out, Nonnie.
"no one man should have all that power" says kanye solemnly
beyonce kicks her leg over her head “i am no man”