So sometimes, writing descriptions of settings are difficult. I mean, a forest is a forest. The city is the city. While I’m not the kind of writer to prattle on about the specific color of blue, I still want a rich backdrop for my story. The world for my characters, and for the reader, should feel real.
One way I push myself to write more detailed descriptions is by asking myself questions. As silly as that sounds, trust me for a second. This actually works for me. How would I describe a scene to the reader? What do I have to do to paint that clear picture?
If you are like me, and struggle with writing about the setting for your stories, check out my list of questions below. Maybe they’ll help jog something.
In what time does the story take place? Are we in medieval times or the roaring twenties or modern day? How can the reader tell? Provide examples of technology or clothing choices, those are usually great indicators for time and place.
Are there roads/paths to follow? Is it a dirt road or paved with cement?
What sounds are around? People chattering? Birds chirping? Absolute silence?
How’s the lighting? Is the room candle lit? Is there one buzzing electric bulb?
Is there garbage littered in the streets? Is the room full of clutter? Or does everything look pristine?
Any smells lingering in the air? Freshly popped popcorn? What about burning wood? A posh lady’s perfume perhaps?
What is the state of a building? Is it worn down? Or newly built?
Think about the specific materials things of objects. Rough material, like burlap, versus delicate material, like silk? Think about texture.
What is the general landscape? Mountainous? Modern?
What is the temperature outside? Is it hot and balmy? Cold and chilly?
What does the terrain look like?
Are there any kinds of plants around? Trees?
Is there a water source (lake, river, pond) nearby? Or is it a lifeless wasteland?
Really talk about colors. Beyond just sky blue or blood red. What does the color remind you of? Think about something really specific. I always loved the example of a “Stewed cherry dress.”
Looking up pictures on google helps sometimes, if actual visuals help jog your brain. (I got a stash of historical photos from the 1920s to look at when I have writer’s block.)
Although possibly distracting and frivolous, make sure you research, to be accurate.
Bottom line, you have to play around with the five senses. Keep those in mind when writing the fine details. Sensory details are key.
Write in the comments about what helps you create rich setting descriptions. I’d love to hear from you guys.
Write with Heart,