Every time you begin a story, you open a doorway into a new world. If you want readers to step in with you, then you must make that world believable. I am lucky – and privileged – to live in Jerusalem and I have used that setting many times in my fiction, articles and poetry. You don’t always need a full description – sometimes a well-known landmark that is easily recognizable, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, will take the reader where you want them to go, immediately.
Using the senses is another way to get readers quickly to the place you want them to envisage. The smell of burning rubber at the scene of an accident; or the pungent odor of disinfectant will take their imagination straight to a hospital. The noise of a crowd cheering sets the scene at a sporting event; or the irritating drip of a leaky faucet conjures up a cold water flat. You can introduce the acrid taste of smoke in a burning building; salt water spray on the lips lets them know they are near the ocean.
When you invite guests into your home, you try to create a dominant impression of the way you live. Proper use of setting can do the same for you as a writer. The proper use of atmosphere suggests to readers how they should react to fiction. Effective writers use it to play on readers’ emotions. When you enter a home, you form an impression of its occupant. Setting suggests a great deal about characters’ personalities. It is particularly important to characterization if you are writing in the first person. The things you choose to have your narrator notice in the setting often lets your reader know a lot more about the character than he knows about himself. In some fiction, the desert often has a life of its own. So can a swamp, or a rain forest.
Setting can serve you well as a tool in fiction writing. When you read over a scene and feel something is missing, don’t overlook this important element.
I am always happy to hear your comments, or to be of help if you are having writing problems.