In 2012, Paula McLain, author of historical fiction, The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun, and the memoir, Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses, taught a master class about setting at Rollins College. My assistant Catheryne, before I knew her, attended that master class, and I sat in the audience, observing.
During the class, McLain encouraged the students to consider setting as another character in their story because many times, the where is as important as the who, what, when, and why. We often focus on telling the story and neglect the container in which the story rests. Settings matter, in how we grew up and in our stories of today.
For today’s prompt, let’s chew on Bite #81, The Place Where It All Happens, from my book, Eating an Elephant: Write Your Life One Bite at a Time:
You have many ways to describe the location where your story takes place. There’s always the physical description, but don’t be satisfied with what can be seen. Think about smells, sounds, and the feel of the place. What objects are there? What is the weather like? What’s the season of the year? What is the locale’s historical background? Are people part of the setting, e.g., crowds, street vendors? Are animals involved? What is the mood like? The lighting? All of these elements may be helpful in describing your setting.
Think about an important place where you spent time as a child and one thing that happened there. Take a few minutes and make a list of all the characteristics of your setting. Once you have finished, start writing your story.