5 Tips For Writing Settings In A Novel

Setting is the background where your characters act out the novel’s events. To help me describe my settings, I gather pictures from magazines or online and save them in a folder or on my Pinterest boards. When I’m writing a scene, I usually keep the picture up on my tablet so I can immerse my imagination in the image.

Other ways you can use are: Google maps, go visit the actual location, or read about the place and time period of you setting.



Don’t go overboard with minutiae. Focus on important details that your POV character would notice. Your setting descriptions should set the tone of the scene, but should not read like a laundry list or real estate listing.


Include the five senses. So often, writers forget about the other senses besides sight. Remember to also use textures, smells, tastes, and sounds in your work. Don’t cram all five in at once, but try to include at least two.


Answer the five W’s: who (characters in the scene), where (place), when (time), why (purpose), and what (what are the characters doing).


Let the setting interact with the characters, for example, don’t tell readers, “the day was hot.” Describe the heat waves rising from the pavement, the brown grass on her neighbor’s lawn and the sound of her dog panting on the porch.


Do research to make sure your setting’s details are accurate. If your novel is set in the Civil War era, you don’t want to include technology that wasn’t invented yet, clothing people didn’t wear, or use names for places that didn’t exist. Passionate readers of you genre will know if something is out of place and review your book harshly because of it.


How do you handle writing setting descriptions in your stories?


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5 thoughts on “5 Tips For Writing Settings In A Novel

  1. Dear stacybenedict,

    The tips you gave me, it helps me a lot. Thank you very much. However, I’m still having a hard time describing my setting, like ‘it’s so dark’ like that… do you perhaps have any tips for me to easily describe my setting in a most fashionable way? Thank you

    On Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 11:00 PM, stacy benedict wrote:

    > stacybenedict posted: “Setting is the background where your characters act > out the novel’s events. To help me describe my settings, I gather pictures > from magazines or online and save them in a folder or on my Pinterest > boards. When I’m writing a scene, I usually keep the pictu” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kyuhne Thane
      Sorry for the long delay in responding. My life really got hectic and there seems to be no let up in the future.
      I do have a few tips and I hope they help.
      When writing the first draft, don’t worry about description. Just put down “the hallway was dark” and the man your protagonist bumped into on the street had “brown hair and a sexy dimple.” The 1st draft isn’t the time to get fancy. It’s best to get the bones of your story written. You’ll fix everything during editing, but make a note to yourself about adding more details later.
      Keep in mind 2 things:
      1. Not everything needs a lot details–in fact most settings don’t. If your character is in a classroom, most people know what a classroom looks like. No need to describe the entire room.
      2. It is fine to write “the dark room” or “her skin was soft” or whatever simple description you want. Writers venture into purple prose if they are always writing: “the midnight black shadows spilled from the oval living room into the long hallway, raising goosebumps over Kyuhne’s silky butter like skin.” A ton of this will get old fast.
      The best way to learn how to write better descriptions is to read them. I recommend going to Amazon and reading the entire “look inside” of books in the same genre that you’re writing in. Study how other writers set the mood and describe characters and places. Here are some examples:
      Example from Dawn of Eternal Day by C.N. Crawford:
      Chapter 2
      “The man sitting across from me in the café smiled cheerfully, the corners of his eyes crinkling. A few droplets of his latte lingered in his mustache.”
      At no point is the café, Café du Monde, described further. Most people know what a café looks like.
      Example from Immortal Bound by T.G, Ayer
      Chapter 1
      “Vee leaned against the cool brick of the alley wall, ground her already overly-gritted teeth and tilted her head a little to allow her companion easier access to the curve of her neck, the kisser providing the best cover as she kept a cold eye on the bar across the street…
      … Vee’s attention then returned to the entrance of the only establishment on this street still open at the ungodly hour of two in the morning. All the other stores had had the good sense to close up at an hour closer to one deemed not the straight path to Hell…
      The stakeout was taking its toll on Vee’s bones. The late fall air—already edged with insistent cold—sank right through her fur-lined leather jacket, the icy wet ground seeping its way up into the soles of her boots to sink deep into her bones.
      A recent rain-shower had bathed the street in a film of moisture, dotting the ragged blacktop with luminescent puddles, each tinted a strangely undulating aqueous green. Above the entrance to the bar, neon lights flickered a sickly jade every few seconds, as if it considered its task unworthy.”
      This has way more description, but T.G. Ayer uses some of the 5-senses (sight, touch, sound) in her descriptions to set the mood and show readers what the alley Vee is doing her stake out in feels like, but it isn’t purple prose.
      Example from City of Fae by Pippa DaCosta
      Chapter 1
      … “I hugged my bag close and pulled my coat tighter as the train I’d stepped from clattered out of the subway station, blasting me with hot, dry air in its wake….Lingering on the platform, alone, but for a few late-night stragglers and a homeless guy slumped on the floor against a billboard, I checked my cell phone: searching for a signal: No notifications…
      A wave of warm air signaled an arriving train, ruffling my coat and rifling through his hair….”
      DaCosta uses the 5 senses, but not all of them (sound, touch). She doesn’t do a whole lot of detail description, just enough so readers get a sense of where the protagonist is and also the time–in a subway station, late at night. DaCosta doesn’t get flowery. She writes that the main character is in a “subway station,” that the air is “hot, dry” and “warm.”
      I really hope this helps. Thank you for reading my blog post and please let me know how your writing is progressing. Good luck!!


  2. Bonjour ou Bonsoir mon Ami, Amie
    Une légende dit
    Qu’il existe un paradis
    On y trouve un trésor
    Celui de la vraie amitié
    Ce bien précieux d’amitié est une fleur
    Elle est remplit de bonheur
    Sent-tu ce parfum
    C’est celui de l’amitié qui jamais ne s’éteint
    Donc je me suis dit que cette légende t’était destinée

    Car en toi j’ai trouvé un ami ou une amie vraiment spéciale

    Bonne journée on bonsoir

    gros bisous


    Liked by 1 person

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