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Building Setting: Resources & Inspiration

“Places are never just places in a piece of writing. If they are, the author has failed. Setting is not inert. It is activated by point of view.” -Carmen Maria Machado, In the Dream House

Hello all! I hope this post finds you in good health and general well-being in this chaotic time. I'm currently writing from my couch where my work attire is PJ's and my miniature pinscher, Ranger is snuggled up underneath the blanket at my side.

Continuing with this month's theme of setting, I figured the best thing for this quarantine would be to offer some resources and inspiration to help keep you busy developing and being intentional with your settings. Whether you're writing a novel, short story, or poem these tips will help you stay motivated and productive while you're stuck at home.

Here's a little inspiration from the experts to help get you started:

Tips for Building Setting:

If you find yourself in a stand-still or at a loss for words, try using these 5 methods to help you get back on track.

  • The "tour guide" method: One of my favorite ways to explore a new setting idea, this method works great if you're the type of writer who likes visualization exercises or are more character-oriented than anything else. The way it works is that you write a short story (for your eyes only) where you allow your character to be the "tour guide" for you. Have them walk you through their world so that you can take in the details for yourself.

Ask yourself the following:

-What does the scenery look like?

-What sensory details can you describe?

- Does it differ depending on the time of day?

- What makes it different from reality?

- What memorable details are there?

- How does your character view this setting?

By answering these questions you should have a good base for your setting. From here you can keep adding details until you've reached a point where you feel good about it.

  • Pinterest vision boards: Another helpful tool I like to use is Pinterest. There's nothing cooler than being able to put together a real-life visual to represent your settings and characters. If you tend to picture your story as a movie in your head, or find looking at a real-life image easier to describe than trying to make up everything from scratch, then this may be a viable option for you. For examples, check out my profile on Pinterest by using the link here.

  • Historical/cultural references: This comes in handy when you need to add some realistic qualities to your setting. By looking up small details like what type of architecture was used in the medieval era or what people wore in Mongolia back in the day, you can add interest to your setting by emulating some of these unique variants. If you're feeling particularly feisty, you can layer different elements from different time periods or cultures for an all-new fantasy experience.

  • Setting generators: I will swear by generators as a great jumping off point forever. It's a quick and easy way to get some fun ideas for your story and setting. Seventh Sanctum is one devoted specifically to setting, events, and random elements of world-building. Once you have your initial idea, make sure you flesh it out with some of the other methods on this list for a well-rounded setting.

  • Setting Worksheet: So as I was searching the internet for inspiration, I quickly realized that there aren't many worksheets for setting. I found this super unhelpful, so I decided to make one and share it with you all here. Below is the template. Feel free to copy/paste or print for your writing binders.

Setting Worksheet

Setting Basics

Background or Integral:


Primary Place:






Time of year:

Time of day:

Elapsed time:

Mood and atmosphere:



Man-made geography:

Historical significance:

Social/political/cultural environment:


Ancestral influences:

Whether you need inspiration, new ideas, or structure to help you get started, Writing It Wells has you covered. Stay safe and healthy. Don't forget to subscribe.

#writingitwells #writing #writer #March #writingseries #setting #writingadvice #writingtips #writinginspiration

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