NaNoWriMo: How Important Is Setting In Your Novel?

“Who’s doing NaNoWriMo this year?” (A question at our writers’ group meeting.)

It’s that time of year again. November and NaNoWriMo loom large. Will you participate?

BTW: no matter when you’re reading this, you can use these tips to improve your fiction…

Whether you’re joining in or not, if you’re an author, you worry about setting:

  • How much scene-setting do you need?
  • What about the first chapter: should you add lots of description to establish your story’s world?

NaNoWriMo: start planning (and plan your settings too)

Our group’s discussion about settings in fiction centered around how to make your settings “come alive.”

One author said that in his reading, he skips long descriptions in a novel. He wants to get on with the story. Another author said that she focuses primarily on characters and plot and rarely thinks much about setting.

That’s a valid point. I’m torn. I skip long descriptions too, especially if I’m rereading a novel. On the other hand, if I don’t include some material on setting in a novel I feel as if I’m cheating readers.

Readers read for the story, they want to know what happens next

How to avoid writing descriptions of settings that readers skip? Let’s say you’ve recently visited a wonderful location: Hever Castle in Kent, England. Anne Boleyn spent some years of her childhood there. You had a wonderful time, and because you’re writing a mystery novel, you want to include a description of the castle and gardens. You could, of course, but why not consider putting the action front and center, rather than descriptions?

If you were writing a mystery for example, your sleuth could find a corpse, or a clue, in the yew maze at Hever Castle.

Writing too much about setting can unbalance your novel. And no matter how exotic your setting, readers have seen it before.

Plan your settings for NaNoWriMo

Movies are set in the most exotic locations on the planet. Movies and TV rely on visuals, but you don’t need to.

Let readers use their imagination. With a few telling details, and your characters’ thoughts and actions, your novel can be more entertaining than a movie.

Be especially wary of using too much of your research; it’s tempting, but again, it stops your story’s action.


 

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