How to improve your story’s setting – Part 2

Setting is one of the more important elements of fiction (and even nonfiction) writing. In this two-part series, we tell you how to choose your setting and how to make the best of it.

Read Part 1 if you missed it.


WAWFMM3 (Setting & Description)This article is an excerpt from the “WAW Fiction MicroMasterclass: Setting & Description”, a collation of learning notes from the WAW Fiction Masterclass series. #WAWFM are one-day fun fiction masterclasses focusing on elements of fiction. It features learning sessions, reading excerpts, videos, writing, workshopping and review of pieces. There’s also music, food, and a sense of community and networking with great writerly folk.

The next #WAWFM, Plot, Description and Setting, is scheduled for 25th March, 2017 in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria. Registrations are ongoing, and seats are limited to 25 only. Register now.


 Building Fictional Worlds

Your story could happen in a fictional setting in our world, or one in a “secondary world”–a world that is different from ours to some degree (or, we daresay, a world that doesn’t exist–yet). Sometimes, this world coexists with our normal world (for example, Hogwarts and the whole magical world in the Harry Potter books) or exists all on its own (for example, Tolkien’s Middle Earth). Sometimes, this world is deemed to exist, but we haven’t seen it yet or proven its existence (e.g. stories set in space).

To create a fictional setting, you need to:

Set rules

No world works without rules. Even our earth has rules. When making up a fictional world, there must be plausible and rational rules that shouldn’t be too difficult for a reader to grasp. Here on earth, gravity keeps us down on earth, but if your chosen planet has no gravity, then people can’t walk on streets like earth, except there’s some artificial gravity simulator, etc. The rules must be consistent or else your reader won’t take you seriously.

Ground the reader in time

When kicking off, your reader needs to settle into this world early on in the story, or he/she will get lost and become disinterested. Let them know who the rules apply to, and who can defy them (e.g. who can fly on earth and why?).

If there are fantastical entities, show them…

If there are certain aspects of your world that make it stand out, let it shine through. A world without land and only water? A world with beasts separate and different from earth’s animals? A world where cars are powered by magic? Show us these parts and let us be wowed.

…but don’t forget natural elements!

Don’t get carried away and focus only on the cool new stuff. If your world has four moons, that’s well and good, but show us the same one sun that is normal. Show us the peoples and their way of life and how human they are. Keep the simple, everyday things as they are, so that all the cool stuff can shine through.

And finally, for a quick lesson on building fictional worlds, here’s Kate Messner for TedEd on How to build a fictional world.

Read Part 1 if you missed it.


To learn more about Plot, Setting and Description, register for the upcoming fiction masterclass. Only a few seats left.

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