All Pennwriters Courses are conducted on the Groups.io platform. Courses are run on this discussion board and are NOT completed in a “live” presentation format. There is no required time you must log in to participate in this month’s long course.
The setting of a book, whether fiction or non-fiction, is more than just background noise and props. It’s an ecosystem and your character is a lion strolling through it.
For readers, the setting establishes a context for your plot, sure, but it also does so much more. It affects emotions, both consciously and subconsciously.
Together, we’ll study examples and learn how to use setting as another tool to improve our writing. Small exercises will be assigned each week.
We’ll explore the connection between character and setting. Regardless of tone, theme, or even setting, all stories are told through the lens of character. People notices different details about a space based on their individual needs, goals, and tastes. We’ll explore mixing objective and qualitative descriptions of a place/situation.
We’ll look at how setting defines genre in both obvious and subtle ways. Technology, and your character’s relationship to it, can differentiate science fiction from fantasy. If you want to write a cozy mystery, you need a setting that hides the drama beneath a seemingly innocent veneer. Whether you choose the high-fashion glamour of New York or the folklore-rich mountains of Appalachia depends on the type of story you want to tell.
We’ll study how setting affects the emotions of the reader, and how that can help convey mood, tone and theme. For example - if your theme is death, is it a raw and emotional exploration of loss ? A dark and gritty study of war? Or a slow acceptance of the inevitable?
We’ll also talk about how the settings we chose for particular scenes can be used to raise the stakes and increase tension.
We’ll talk about world building for all genres – not just speculative fiction. We will learn how the details we choose to include, even if strictly writing within the “real world,” create a new experience for readers. We’ll also explore how much setting is enough, and when it becomes too much.
“ It is impossible to powerfully capture a place via objective description—at least to capture it in a way that readers will not skim. Only through the eyes and heart of a character does place come truly alive.” (Donald Maass, The Fire in Fiction).
Fritze Roberts is a freelance editor and former project manager who helps authors commit to their writing projects and enjoy success.
Fritze writes about monsters, aliens, addicts, and animals – even though she is none of these things. Her science fiction and fantasy stories contrast the small activities of everyday with the larger mysteries of life.