What is the purpose of story “setting” and how do you establish it?
The setting of a story has a role to play, and that is to create a sense of “being there” for readers. A description of your story’s setting should establish a time and place in the reader’s mind and help them to visualize the characters in that time and place.
The story setting is not just a description of a mountain landscape, an urban street, or a country farmhouse. The setting is more than a visual description; it should also convey the sense of being there by describing what a reader (and character) might feel, hear, smell, sense, or taste in a particular environment.
Story Setting – A Misunderstood Element of Writing Fiction
Writing the setting of a story is often confused with writing descriptively (writing descriptively is often confused with writing well; see the upcoming article on Descriptive Writing for more information). You want to describe the environment that your character finds herself in, but to do it effectively you must consider certain novel writing elements.
“Who’s talking now?” That’s a question you don’t want the readers of your novel to be asking. In novel writing, the different perspectives from which a story can be relayed are known as types of point of view. In this section about novel writing, we will look at the top 4 types of point of view (POV) and how to select the best one from which to write your novel.
Top 4 Point of View Options of Novel Writing
Third person, subjective
Third person, objective
A first-person point of view would read like this, “I traveled up the tree and down again in 60 seconds.” This point of view allows for only one perspective and everything the reader learns about the story comes from that perspective. The storyteller is allowed to reveal only her own thoughts and feelings. The feelings and thoughts of any other character are only exposed to the reader through that character’s dialogue or actions. The storyteller cannot get into the other character’s heads and can only reveal what she thinks and feels. She can have impressions of other characters, but that’s all.
A third person, subjective,point of view would read like this, “She traveled up the tree and down again and was sure she’d done it within 60 seconds.” This perspective is from the gal who climbed the tree, but it can occasionally shift to other characters. Using this type of point of view allows more characters to think and feel. This way of writing can be used with either a third person singular or third person multiple (or changing) perspective.
In writing fiction, “style” is defined, in the most simplistic terms, as the way a writer writes. It’s the “voice” a reader hears when they read a novel. It’s your preferred method of telling a story. Your style seasons the entire novel whether you want it to or not. While you might try to emulate another writer because you admire their work and enjoy reading their stories, you may come close, but your story will still have your unique brand of writing style.
A person’s writing style is a mixture of many elements. It’s about how you like to write. Writing style comes through your choice of words, tone, and syntax. It’s also influenced by your personality, attitudes, thoughts, likes, dislikes, and idiosyncrasies – everything that makes you who you are.
Literary agents and publishers may ask you for an outline, so it’s important to know how to write a novel outline that tells your story and shows how it moves along from beginning to middle to end. You may also use outlining techniques to structure your story as you write it and as a way of expanding and keeping track of scenes, characters, subplot, and plot.
How to Write a Novel Outline for Literary Agents and Publishers
An outline requested by a literary agent or publisher is typically a numbered, formatted summary of each chapter or significant event. The outline should “tell” the reader exactly what happens in each chapter and does not dramatize it or leave a mystery for the reader to figure out. As with writing a synopsis for your novel – if you have written a mystery, for example – you disclose the resolution to the mystery, i.e., “who done it”.
If both a novel’s plot and subplot can be defined as a “distinct storyline in which a character pursues a goal”, what’s the difference between these two elements of novel writing? It’s a great question and one worth discussing. The following novel-writing tips will help you understand:
what a subplot is (or isn’t), and
the important role a subplot plays in a novel.
Novel-Writing Tips – Nuances of Plots vs. Subplots
The “central plot” of a story, where your lead character is fighting passionately to gain something, keep from losing something, or overcome something, has its own distinct plot thread. This thread shows all the struggles the lead character goes through to finally achieve his/her goal or resolve the problem.
A subplot is another storyline that you weave into a central plot, adding complexity to the lead character (or other characters) in which the character has some sort of dilemma that they must also overcome.
Novel-Writing Tip: A subplot becomes potent when it adds depth, complexity, conflict or humanizing dimensions to the central story and its characters.
If someone asked you how to start a novel plot, what would your answer be? You might say that plot is everything that happens in a story and that they could begin by writing all of those events down. Your answer would be correct to a certain extent. However, in this section of the elements of novel writing, we are going to look at a deeper meaning of a novel’s plot and how novelists use it to get a story going and keep it going.
Character development is one of the first essential steps of writing a novel and it involves creating the people who will carry out your story. There will most likely be a variety of characters needed for your story, but none as important as your lead character – your protagonist. A well-developed protagonist has much to do with the success of writing a novel.
The protagonist should be someone that your readers feel is a “real person” that they come to love (or at least like a whole lot), can relate to in many ways and will care about and think about long after they’ve turned the final page on your novel.
How to Create “Real People” for Your Novel
When writing a novel, there are many ways to go about creating characters and much has been written about it in “how to write a novel books”, sometimes in great detail. There are as many ideas about what makes a good character as there are apples on a tree. The traits of a lead character may change somewhat by the type of novel, or genre, you’re writing and by what your protagonist needs to accomplish in the novel’s plot. Still, there are a few personality traits that every lead character must possess, no matter what kind of novel you’re writing.
Writing a Novel – The Lead Character is:
admirable – has integrity, courage, beauty, kindness, strength, etc. – leave the rotten personalities and hang-ups for the antagonist,
relatable – create scenes that allow your character to evoke an emotional response from readers,
realistic – portrays emotions consistent with their personality traits,
a problem solver – someone with an over the top problem, whom readers believe is capable of solving.
Writing a Novel – Three Attributes of Every Character
I have found that the best way to begin the process of character development is by using a “top-down” method. It is composed of three elements: