Posted by: nancycurteman | July 26, 2014

7 Ways Authors Can Create Realistic Settings

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Unknown-1It is essential for authors to create realistic settings. Setting is one of the elements that enables readers to imagine their way into a story. The purpose of setting is to add atmosphere to a tale. We all know setting is where your story takes place—in a country, city, airplane, haunted house, castle. This is pretty basic. However, setting must include much more in order to be realistic. Here are 7 ways an author can create realistic settings:

1. Use the five senses to describe setting. Enable your reader to smell the soup bubbling on the stove, hear the rain pelting on the tin roof, feel the lush hotel carpet beneath his bare feet, taste the garlicky spaghetti sauce, see the dents in the old man’s car.

2. Describe weather, season, time of day, flora and fauna but not in too much detail. For example, It was an early spring evening but the damp chill in the air made it feel like the middle of winter. This is brief but the reader gets the feeling tone.

3. Every place you set a story has its own unique culture, traditions and rituals. Describe them. Each Monday night the O’Brian children gathered around their grandparent’s dinner table, and before their spoons touched the Irish stew, had to recite one thing for which they were thankful.

4. Bring in a location’s past or historical elements. This will require some research. Be careful to touch on details important to your novel. Don’t write a history book.

5. Present your location using film techniques. Start with a broad view and gradually focus  on specific closeups. For example: Describe the exterior of the castle and its grounds then gradually work your way through the elegant halls down to the secret torture chamber.

6. Add idiosyncrasies. Just getting to work was frustrating. He never knew if his old clunker would start or not.

7. Decide which details of a setting are most important to your plot and emphasize their descriptions. Minimize other less important details.

Think of setting as a story element that is as important as your characters and describe it with the same care you would use to present your story people. Create realistic settings just as you create realistic characters.

More tips:
Great Settings Make Great Mysteries
8 Uncommon Settings for Your Mystery Novel


  1. Oh wow, this would have been wonderful to have read a few months ago! SO useful!


    • I find it useful to review these points for myself. Glad you approve of them.


  2. Reblogged this on Life as a Writer and Artist and commented:
    More good advice from Nancy


    • Thanks, always nice to hear from you. You make my day.


  3. Great post – thx for sharing 🙂


    • I hope you find the post helpful. Thanks for your comment.


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