Setting is one of the things that draws your reader into your story and allows her to envision your world. In many ways it’s like a necessary character. Try and do without it, and your story will fall flat. But properly setting the scenes in your story is difficult in this day and age, when pages and pages of introspection are no longer acceptable.
So how do we effectively build setting without boring the reader? By sprinkling setting throughout the story in manageable little chunks. It still gets the imagery across but you only burden the reader with what is absolutely necessary to know at this point in time.
Sprinkling the setting throughout the story is something I struggle with. When my character walks into a room, I’m envisioning it. My gut reaction is to write that down in a sort of laundry list of information that will set the scene for my reader. Well, that’s fine if it’s just a few sentences. But any more and I run the risk of boring my reader. So when setting the scene I make a conscious effort to sprinkle bits of setting here and there.
Setting is also important when changing scenes or starting new chapters. The reader needs to be brought back into the story. She needs to know whether we are still where we left off at the last scene or chapter, or whether it’s an entirely new location. This is easy to forget when I’m writing the story, since I know exactly where I left off and whether this scene is supposed to be at that same place or not. So when editing I make a note to check all scene beginnings to make sure setting is clear.
Setting can also be used as a symbol for something else in your scene. If the heroine is about to meet with someone whose intentions are unclear, maybe the setting will be spooky in order to signal her unease. If one of the characters is quirky and unusual, perhaps the setting for the scene in which she is featured can also be odd and unusual. When properly done, this subconsciously triggers that same emotion within your reader, drawing her further into the storyline.
For you writers, do you have any tricks for incorporating setting into your story? If so, please do share!