By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern
Believe it or not, most times, the setting we choose for our story is
like a character. We have to create that world. It may look like the world you
live in, but it will have its differences.
This world is going to need its own look, sounds, and smells.
Even if you choose a setting similar to where you grew up, you will still
add stores, houses, perhaps malls, a river, or stream or mountain that didn’t
exist in your town.
The characters you create will need certain locations. You may need to
create the places they work, the restaurants where they eat, or maybe a diner
they visit every morning for breakfast. You may want to put a particular church
or a hardware store.
You see, all these things have to be created and placed in this world you
This world will have a feel about it that is different from other places.
Real or imagined.
This is the place your characters are going to come to life. The more you
know about this world, the more you bring it to life for your reader. Even
though you may not use everything you create for this new world in your story,
by just knowing these things it puts more richness in your story.
Take it a few steps further, maybe you could develop a little history for
this new world. What are its laws, rules, does it have folk lore?
The most important rule of all when creating your world, is show, don’t
tell the reader. Open the door and bring them into this world you have created.
Some authors draw maps of their towns and surrounding country side and
put them in their books. Having read some of those authors, like Lin Stepp, it
made it much more interesting and just delivered me into the world she created.
As I read some of the books from these authors I am able to picture the town, its
post office and where the general store is . . . across the street, with its
red roof and black writing on the front of the store. I’m able to follow the
street a character takes to walk down to the bait shop and know that when the
character is walking up Main Street they will run right into the courthouse. It
creates for the reader a picture in their minds drawing them into the story
feeling like they are there.
What all can you add to your new world you create for your story? What
about the type of weather in that location? The flowers and fauna you find.
Everything is usable in the world you create. The secret is to make this
created world seem real.
Needless to say, however, you don’t want it to overshadow your story. So
think about what type of world you want to create and how you can help your
reader enter in to that world and be part of what you have created.