Don’t Underestimate the role of Setting
Captivate . . . engage . . . transport – setting does all that and more.
Create the mood – draw in the reader – jump start the whole story . . . all with setting.
The background and surroundings provide support and footing for structuring and building the story. Presenting vivid descriptions and details – engage the reader’s emotions and allow him to see what the characters see. It secures place and location for characters, drama, conflict and suspense; while grounding the reader with a sense of identification. When properly formulated, setting unleashes the dramatic aspects of the narrative or dialogue.
Many books announce the environment or location at the commencement of the story – or in the first few sentences. “The gleaming aircraft wing glistened in the late morning sunshine as she gazed out the window.” This is a passage taken from my book, Son of My Father – A Family Dynasty. A concrete reference establishes the setting with the first sentence. Several lines of dialogue from the corporate management team onboard follow, revealing the private airplane is heading back to New York. Then the reader learns, “As the plane lifted off from Los Angeles heading for the clouds, the celebration began.” Setting has oriented the reader and provided a frame of reference.
Setting paints a picture. “Christiana owned an Italianate villa named Bellagio, after one of her favorite spots in Italy. The twenty-five thousand square-foot gated estate was defined by fine architectural accents and European understatement, with free-flowing large expanses of windows and terraces, majestic ceilings and marble floors, overlooking the splendors of the waterways complete with two boat docks.”
Setting presents imagery. “Awaiting Christiana’s arrival, Jack made a last minute visual inspection as he strode around his apartment. Satisfied that all was in order, he touched the Cristal Champagne chilling in the ice bucket on the cocktail table next to the Baccarat crystal flutes. Playing softly in the background was Shubert’s Unfinished Symphony and the twinkling lights of Manhattan were starting to accent the skyline.”
The American Author, Jacob M. Appel, notes setting should have three specific goals: To orient – give the reader a frame of reference. To awe – provide knowledge and descriptive details of the location, along with interesting tidbits that come from familiarity. To trap – pull the reader into the setting and the first drama.
Setting must be credible developed from current experience or knowledge of place, along with thorough research and validating information. Setting must be cohesive with the plot and characters. Setting must be consistent with the timeframe of the story. Setting remains a key and vital component to storytelling.
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Author – Son of My Father – A Family Dynasty & Travel Editor – hers Magazine