Setting in fiction plays a huge role. Whether your write sci-fi, romance, historicals, erotica, thrillers, mysteries, or literary fiction, the setting can make or break your story. “Setting is not a simple backdrop, like a green screen on which a film is shot,” says instructor Jess Wells. “It’s no accident that your intrepid hero has to ride through a narrow mountain pass: it’s the way you force friend and foe into a meeting. It’s helpful that your main character is the village doctor, hosting family after family during their crisis in a little room in the front of the house. Even the relentless dark and biting wind of a distant planet illustrates both the physical challenges facing the colony of scientists, as well as their brooding cruelty to one another.”
How do you create well-drawn settings that will do justice to your fictional world? What elements go into effective settings that work hard for your story? How can a setting be drawn in a way that adds to the challenges of the protagonist’s quest? How can a setting allow you, the author, to control the movement of your characters and to introduce a diversity of characters and events?
“We’ll look at the opening pages of some well-known books from different genres,” says Jess, “including The Lathe of Heaven and Perfume: Story of a Murderer.
“And for fun, we’ll make a map and create a world ‘setting’ of our own, then tip our hats to the amazing power of settings that transport us, transfix us, and even let us smell the flowers of a foreign land.
Jess Wells is thrilled to announce the signing of her new novel, A Slender Tether, to Fireship Press. It’s her fourth novel and second work of historical fiction. Jess is also the author of five books of short stories and the recipient of the San Francisco Arts Commission Grant for Literature in 2008. Her previous work, The Mandrake Broom, is available from Amazon. She blogs at RedRoom.com and at jesswells.com, and teaches “How to Write Historical Fiction,” “Theme Plot and Characterization,” “Fundamentals of the Short Story,” and “How to Write with a Full-Time Job: Time Management for Writers,” at The Writing Salon and other venues around the country.