Take readers there
Your story has to happen somewhere. The setting is the time and place where it happens.
The setting helps readers visualize and feel connected to the story.
“Our lives unfold in scenes,” says reporter Adam Hochschild. “Make readers feel that they are there.”
Elements of setting
To set a scene, include:
- Where the story takes place. Mention the location and city (and state, if AP Style demands it) at the very least. Depending on the length of your narrative, you might also set the scene with description.
- When the story takes place. Include the month and date, if nothing else.
Locales and scenes may change, but the setting remains the same. In Cinderella, for instance, the setting might be a principality somewhere in Europe. But the scenes and locale change from the hovel in the woods to the palace.
Use description to set a scene.
When setting the scene, think of creating a movie in your reader’s mind. Description and metaphor will help you do so.
“Don’t use adjectives or adverbs to try to describe or hype the emotions,” writes Tom Huang, Sunday & Enterprise Editor at The Dallas Morning News. “Just write with spare language, and use details to put readers there. They will likely experience some of the emotions you felt as you observed the scene.”
Here’s how Gerald M. Carbone did it in The Providence Journal:
“Below the tree line, the White Mountains in winter are a vision of heaven. Deep snow gives them the texture of whipping cream. Boulders become soft pillows. Sounds are muted by the snow. Wind in the frosted pines is a whisper, a caress.”
Now you do it.