Stories are set somewhere. It’s either background or part of the story in how it interacts with those who travel therein, or the character interacts with it in some way.
We do not exist in white space.
And yet I read stories where it’s completely missing. There is nothing to visualise or imagine, no hint as to time or place. Just a little bit will do, enough for me to use my previous life history to make something of what the story is set against.
Are there hills? Do these hills affect the weather and what grows? Are there houses, neighbours, shopping areas? Are we in the country with the noises of machinery, animals, trucks moving fast on long roads?
It’s important to have a setting.
Or we don’t know where we are as we read.
And when I read, I like to go somewhere, be in the moment, in a place that’s wondrous or different or easily recognisable. I like to see it, feel it, smell it, touch it, taste it, be part of it.
Take me to that time and place by giving me enough info to be there.
I know, I’ve done a setting thing before, but each week I read and critique several pieces of work, and each week there seems to be a theme on the things I notice most about what’s missing from the stories. This week, again, it’s stories that lack place, time, grounding.
Even if a story is basically a good concept and interesting characters, what’s the point if the reader (me) can’t imagine it because the setting is missing?
Give me a home where the buffalo roam … or something like that so I know where I am, when I am, as well as who I am for this story.
And if you want to be part of a critiquing community, why not try critters.org – you have to give as good as you get, though, so be prepared (and there are rules!). I’d love to see a few more contributors to the mystery, thriller, adventure group, too.