Setting is probably one of the most essential elements of any good story. Without a setting, the narrative will confuse readers. You must pick a setting that is both appropriate and understandable to your audience. If you are writing a fantasy novel, this is where things can get a little sticky, however, you can still create a world that feels like home to your readers. Think about what JK Rowling did with Harry Potter. She was able to create a whole other world and explain it so easily that we felt like we were right at home. These are the things you need to consider when you are picking a time, place, and location. Here are a few quick tips to help you get started.
Imagining a Scene
First, you need to picture what type of place you are looking for. Take a look at some of the things you have collected while brainstorming your novel and try to imagine a place that your characters would normally hang out. Once you have established what type of place it is, do a little bit of free-writing. Write a scene about your characters hang out it in this place. Focus on the five senses. What does it look like? What does the air feel like? How does it smell? All of these things are going to be crucial when it comes time for you to explain this to your readers. The more you know about it, the easier it will be to explain it and the more interesting it will be to read about it.
If you are creating a fictional world, consider drawing a map using Paint on your computer or just sketching it out on a piece of paper. All great fantasy writers, including Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, and C.S. Lewis have maps at the beginning of their books. This helps you conceptualize your setting but it also gives readers a simple way to become familiar with the world that you are creating.
If you are writing about a place that already exists, you should print out a map of the place. Figure out what areas you will be focusing on and do a little bit of research about it. You may also want to make Map Quest directions to your location. This will give you an idea of size, distance, and timing that may be essential in your story. (For instance, if the killer lives 20 minutes away but he was at the scene of the crime in two minutes from his house, that probably won't make any sense). Make sure you have a good understanding of things before you begin writing your manuscript.
This idea works great for character development, but it is also a good idea for setting. In a planner or on a piece of paper, plot out your main character's daily schedule. What places do they normally travel to on a daily basis? What are these places like? Who might your main character bump into along the way. All of these things will help you create a tightly developed community.
The atmosphere of this place is just as important when you are describing it to someone. Is there a gloomy feel in the air? Is it always raining? Is there a sense of darkness about this place? Or, on the opposite note, is this a happy community with a small-town feel to it? The way you describe this in your manuscript will help you establish the overall mood/tone to your story, which is the icing on the cake when it comes to good writing.
You will need to figure out what time period you are writing about. Are we in the Dark Ages? Is this story written in 1950s South Carolina? Is this a future time? All of the references that you will make in your story will be determined by the time period. Even the language and the dialect that characters speak in is dependent upon the time period of your novel. Make sure you have these details ironed out before you write your manuscript. Otherwise, your readers will most likely be very confused about where they are in time.
The setting of a novel is one of the most important pieces to a good story. Without a time, place, and location for your story, it is hard to connect the dots and understand why things are happening. The plot development is linked to the setting, and so are your characters. Even though there are many books that seemingly lack these important features, if you are a first time writer, it is especially important that you practice at this with your first manuscript. You don't want to run into the problem of having several plot holes later. So, before you sit down and type up that awesome story you have been harboring in your mind for several months, make sure that you take some time to focus on the "where". Remember the five W's when you are writing. They are just as important as creating the story itself. Once you have figured out where you are going, close your eyes and imagine that place, with all your characters in it, and begin writing!