4 Tips for Creating a Great Setting for Your Novel

Posted on February 5, 2014


ImageWhen you are crafting your novel, do not underestimate the importance of the setting that you choose. In some cases, the setting is part of your genre—historical, science-fiction, fantasy—and therefore you already know that it is integral to your book. But other times, you might feel as if your fiction novel could take place in almost any country, any city, or any time. How do you pick a great setting then? Here is a list of some things to take into account as you choose and develop a setting for your novel:

     1. Ensure it fits the plot

As I stated above, there are times when a setting must fit a genre, but you also want to make sure it fits your plot. Sometimes a good setting is what drives or even creates the conflict. For instance, imagine a zombie thriller set in a post-apocalyptic setting, and then another set in bustling New York City—the premise may be the same but the plots will ultimately be vastly different for each; they’re two different novels. In other instances, the setting adds to the main conflict, such as when Frodo and Sam stumble through the poisonous wasteland of Mordor in their final desperate efforts to destroy the Ring. Therefore, as you craft your plot, make sure that the setting you choose will enhance the story you are trying to tell.

     2. Make it well-developed

When you write a story, you do not want to briefly address the setting, even if it is not integral to the conflict. In order to keep your readers in the story, make sure that you do more than just describe: give details. If your story is set in nineteenth century England, readers need to know about the clothes the characters wear, the coaches they drive, the homes they live in, the servants they have hired—they need more than a description of the English countryside. The same is true with most science fiction and fantasy novels. Readers want you to develop the culture and people of this setting in such a way that it comes alive and they truly feel a part of the story.

     3. Use vivid descriptions

Going along with the last point, include vivid descriptions of your setting in your book. Just as you want every other detail of the setting to come alive for readers, you also want them to easily imagine what it would look, feel, smell, and taste like to be living in this world, walking in your characters’ shoes. The more you can bring every aspect of the scenery to life, the more easily that your readers will be able to lose themselves in your story.

     4. Don’t let it take away from the narrative

On the flip side is the fact that your setting could detract from your story if you are not careful. If you become too lost in writing about little details about the culture or describing every sunset, your plot will drag and feel sluggish. Do not let the pace of your novel be hindered by too much “setting development.” As a rule, incorporate descriptions of your world wherever it is necessary and natural. Limit yourself by remembering that readers are more interested in action than the color of the sky.

All in all, the components for a successful setting are not complicated. Determine which settings you have especially liked or disliked in books that you’ve read and analyze what the authors did or did not do well to bring them to life. Keep your settings engaging and vivid, but remember the central points of your story—your plot and characters—and do not let them ever take a seat backstage for the setting.

Rachel Schade, Writer, Editor, and Publishing Coordinator


Asta Publications has a long history of helping writers tell their stories and get published. Since 2004, Asta Publications has helped hundreds of authors bring their book concepts to life and we are ready to help you too! Our dedication to our authors is unmatched. We deliver first-class products and services that are accurate, high quality, and exceed our authors’ expectations.

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