The Power of Setting

This post launches a new series of tips and strategies for handling fiction locales.

In the realms of science fiction and fantasy, the setting–or story world–is so important that it’s considered a character.

But what about other genres? How important is setting to the success of romances, mysteries, thrillers, horror, or westerns? Won’t any old backdrop do? After all, it’s the story people and plot that matter, right?

Uh, not entirely.

The backdrop matters a great deal. It should not be bland and generic, interchangeable, or forgettable. Balance is important, of course. You don’t want your story’s setting to overwhelm everything else. It’s fiction, after all, not a travelogue. However, the vague, one-setting-fits-all location will bring nothing to your fiction party.

Therefore, consider the following questions:

How will your setting affect the plot?

How will your setting affect your characters?

How will your setting affect the imagery, tone, and mood of the story?

Is your setting bland or vivid? Why?

Is your setting stereotypical or fresh?

How much research will your setting require?

In the posts to come, I’ll be addressing each of these questions in further detail.

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