Oftentimes, we neglect our story’s setting. Instead, we trade it for more interesting characters or more tension the story’s plot. Amidst all the things that your story needs, your story needs a realistic setting.
And please let it be noted that I in no way mean that your story has to stay within the boundaries of reality. It should, however, stay within the range of being realistic. This means that your readers should feel like they are truly there with your characters. Make your readers want to visit that world you are painting with just words and their imagination. (Either that or make them fear it, if it’s set in a place like Panem.) And so I am here today to help with this task and give you five tips to help you write more realistic settings.
1: Use All Five Senses
Out of the five tips I am sharing today, I believe that this is by far the most common advice. Use all five senses. Using all of the senses will further immerse your reader in the scene you are writing. However, as easy as it sounds, most writers will stick to writing only visuals. This is because it is easier to describe the streetlights reflecting off the wet pavement than sharing the smell of the rain, the feeling of water droplets sprinkling on your skin, the sounds of cars honking in the distance, and whatever else your character is feeling. If you do add in these extra sensory details, not only are your readers more fully immersed in the scene, but they are also experiencing what your character is, pulling them further into the story.
2: Know your Stuff
In order to describe scenes using more of the senses, as the first tip recommends, you need to know your stuff. Especially if your story takes place in another time and/or place than you are familiar with, do some research. That extra effort will be well worth it.
For example: if you were working on a story that is set in the wild west and your main character is a young girl, do some research on what young girls did in that time. That alone will help you describe what your character’s daily life and home look like. Perhaps then you research what clothing was like in that time period, further helping you describe you character’s town.
However, if you learn new words about the time or place that you were researching, try to refrain from using them. Especially if they are not common words today. Even if you really, really want to show your readers that you know what you are talking about, you absolutely do not want them to have to stop reading your story to look up the meaning of the word. It just takes away from the novel. Instead, what I recommend is just taking a few notes, mentally storing away interesting or important information, and then continuing with the writing. Doing this means that you know enough info about the topic but that you can let the information seep organically into your writing as opposed to cramming in every single detail you found.
3: Use Similes
When writing about things or places that your readers may not be familiar with, you can use smilies in your writing. Similes are comparisons between two things using ‘as’ or ‘like’ (i.e. as brave as a lion). However, it’s important that you try to avoid clichés as they tend to lose meaning for the reader.
Another thing to note is that when you do make comparisons, try to make sure that both the reader and character know what the simile is comparing the object to. For example, if your character is in a medieval-based fantasy world, they would not think of a simile such as: shiny as the sun’s reflection on a skyscraper’s glass panes. Your reader would most likely know what that looks like, but your character wouldn’t, which would most likely distract your reader from whatever is happening in the story at that point.
4: Consider What Your Character Would See
When you and another person walk into the same room, you are bound to notice different things right off the bat. For example, if you were at a family reunion, the first thing that you might notice is where your parents are sitting whereas a child would most likely first look for a relative closer in age that they can play with. See what I’m getting at here? Your characters should be different from one another, and should thus notice different things in a room. And so it is your job to get inside your character’s head and figure out what they would notice as well as how they would see it.
5: Watch your Word Choice
When writing your descriptions, also be careful of the connotation of the words you choose. For example, the adjective ‘improper’ means something similar to ‘abusive’ but has a different level of intensity. And when you are describing places, you also want to know what it is exactly that you want to emphasize. If you are emphasizing the darkness of a place, you are setting the tone of how the scene will play out, getting your readers ready for what is coming.
Please comment below if this helped.