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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Setting in Fiction: Why it’s Important

In this two-part blog series, I’m going to be talking about how the actual setting of a historical romance story is a crucial element of the narrative and one which can be used to enhance the writing no end. Part 1 will look at the importance of setting in general, while Part 2 will examine its uses in historical romance.

Setting is one of the most important things to me when I read a book. I can’t imagine Jane Austen’s stories without scenes taking place in busy ballrooms, gossips a-chatter in every corner. Try imagining the work of the Bronte sisters without their backdrops of windswept moors. It just doesn’t happen.

Scenery is important for a number of reasons. It adds atmosphere to the story, for one thing; there’s no better way to give your reader’s imagination a workout than by placing your story in remote or exotic wilds, or in a place where danger lurks in every corner. In this sense, scenery enhances and adds flavour to any story.

It’s also possible to enhance characterisation via setting. You can portray an accurate reflection of your character’s mindset in their surroundings; placing them in a field of summery wild flowers is the perfect romantic idyll, and will set them up for a romantic encounter accordingly, while depicting a character alone and adrift in a grey, featureless world will create a depressive state in an effective way.

Personally, I love stories that are well-grounded in a landscape; I’m a very visual reader, and I like to ‘see’ what’s going on in my mind as I explore a book. I suspect many other readers are the same. The good news is that scenery-building is great fun, too…