Since writing and reading are two big parts of my life, I'm going to be doing these monthly 'Writing Features'. I hope you enjoy them :)
Settings are where all of the action takes place. This is one of the most important parts of story telling because it makes the action be placed in a real time and real place (by real place I mean concrete, of course, if you're writing a fantasy story, it doesn't have to be exactly real but I you know what I mean).
Personally, settings are really hard for me. I have trouble describing the world around me because a) I feel that if my characters have been there for so long, they should know how the place looks and b) I am inconsistent with details.
A setting can be anything, from a small place you knew as a little kid or a totally made-up world. I have yet to learn the latter one as it's very hard to build a world but you can search online for many world-building articles so I won't get into detail with it here.
The setting of the story includes the time, space, and place. You can put a story in a historical moment (called Historical Fiction), a moment in the future (usually science fiction but many stories today are called 'dystopian' for post-apocalyptic worlds), or even modern time.
Settings, especially the weather and atmosphere play a big role when it comes to characters and foreshadowing. I have prepared a small example for you:
How Weather Affects or Tells The Character's Mood
The rain poured all over Faire County and the clouds covered the sun light from touching the fields. Malcom Gutter stood inside his house, both hands pressed to the window as he watched the gloomy outside world.
In this example we see a picture: a rainy - maybe stormy - day and a boy who's looking from inside his house. Just by the action of his pose and the weather you can tell that he's not in the best mood, in fact, he might be saddened. We don't know why but already there's a question forming, Why is the boy sad? Why does he long to go outside?
How Weather Affects The Foretelling Of A Story
Claudia Tensil walked along the paved road on her way to her father's house. She hadn't seen him in years but know she was finally ready to confront him. Thunder roared on the skies and the clouds indicated a rain coming soon. She had to hurry.
In this example, although the weather is similar to the last, we see that it's telling a different thing. It's telling how the coming meeting with Claudia's father might go.
We have seen how atmosphere and weather create different meanings and mood for a story but how do we actually describe it?
First, of course, you have to imagine the place. It might help you to sit back and close your eyes (of course, you might want to read this before doing this ). Imagine a white room. There's nothing in it. Now, in that white room imagine: day or night? Out or in? Urban or Rural? Imagine a place you knew, want to go to, or totally make up. What does it look like? If you were telling this to a friend, how would you say it.
Here's a small example of how little words (and not too much description) can set a setting without feeling overwhelming and still leaving a reader wondering and making up his/her own landscape:
Caden ran across the dirty street, the skyscrapers way overhead felt like they would fall on her at any minute. She stopped in the middle of the busy street, cars all around her hurried to their destinations, they didn't know what was happening. She saw a dark alley and ran to it, keeping herself pressed against the brick wall, she would find the exit soon enough.
So you see, I am describing while keeping the action moving, I'm not really saying "There are streets, and cars, and buildings. It is dark and dirty." No, I am making the character work with the setting instead of keeping them separated.