75 Story Setting Ideas To Elevate Your Stories

Story Setting Ideas

Unleash your creativity and get your  creative juices flowing  with these engaging  story-setting ideas . Use these  creative writing prompts  and  writing tips  to inspire your next  story idea . Remember, the perfect setting creates mood, provides depth, and helps your readers sense the world you're painting with your words.

So let's dive into a sea of inspiration!

Story Setting Ideas

1. A Haunted House: Your main character has just moved into a spooky old house in a small town. Does it turn into a horror story or a mystery?

2. Tolkien's Middle Earth: Transport your readers into a fantasy filled with elves, dwarves, and hobbits. Can you find suspense in the tranquil Shire or tension amidst the rolling hills of Rohan?

3. A Space Station: Imagine a bustling hub of galactic trade or a lonely outpost at the edge of known space. How does the isolation affect your character's day job?

4. Famous Galleries: Your main character is a curator in a world-renowned art gallery. When a masterpiece goes missing, the mystery begins.

5. The White House: From high-stakes politics to personal drama, this setting is ripe for story ideas.

6. The Great Wall of China: Travel back to its construction or reimagine it in a post-apocalyptic world.

7. A Small Town: Every small town holds secrets. What does your main character uncover?

8. A Big City: Skyscrapers, bustling streets, and an array of characters provide a vibrant backdrop for a love story or a gritty crime thriller.

9. Real-Life Historical Events: Reimagine significant moments in history through the eyes of your main character.

10. Romance Novels' Perfect Setting: An English castle, a secluded beach, or a charming small town. The setting is crucial to the mood of romance novels.

11. A Dystopian Future: Take your readers into a bleak future where humanity struggles to survive.

12. A Victorian School: From strict teachers to secret societies, there's more than meets the eye in this setting.

13. A Deep-Sea Submarine: A perfect setting for tension and claustrophobia. What happens when things start to go wrong?

14. An Amusement Park: During the day, it's all joy and fun. What about after hours?

15. A Mysterious Island: Lost in the vast ocean, it's a place of adventure, danger, and discovery.

16. The Underworld: From Greek myth to a realm of your own creation, what happens when your main character descends into the land of the dead?

17. A Forgotten Attic: Dusty relics and forgotten memories make for an interesting setting.

18. An Abandoned Factory: With its eerie sounds and massive, empty halls, it's a place where mystery meets urban decay.

19. A Grand Library: Filled with endless books and hidden corners, who knows what story ideas lurk within its walls.

20. A Sleepy Coastal Town: The sound of waves, the scent of the sea, and an approaching storm.

21. An Extravagant Circus: Acrobats, magicians, and life behind the scenes of a traveling circus.

22. An International Space Station: Life, work, and the politics of an enclosed environment in the infinity of space.

23. A Lush Vineyard: Family drama unfolds against a backdrop of rolling hills and vintage wines.

24. A Bustling Airport: Love, farewells, reunions - life is in full swing in the world's busiest airports.

25. A Military Base in a War Zone: An intense setting where life-and-death decisions are made daily.

26. The Summit of Mount Everest: A tale of survival and determination at the highest point on Earth.

27. An Exotic Alien Planet: New ecosystems, alien civilizations, and the unknown - a setting full of creative potential.

28. A Virtual Reality World: A space where anything is possible. But what happens when the lines between the virtual and the real start to blur?

29. Deep in the Amazon Rainforest: A dense, unforgiving wilderness teeming with undiscovered species and ancient tribes.

30. Inside a Video Game: What if your main character gets sucked into their favorite video game?

31. In the Middle of a Desert: The sun, the heat, the solitude, the survival.

32. Inside a Giant's Castle: Inspired by the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, what adventures await?

33. In the Trenches of World War I: Amidst the fear and the chaos, could there be room for a story of hope and camaraderie?

34. In a Cyberpunk City: Neon lights, high-tech wonders, and a dark underbelly of crime and corruption.

35. In the Kitchen of a Five-Star Restaurant: A hot, hectic, and high-pressure world behind delicious dishes.

36. In the Heart of the Mafia: Intrigue, danger, loyalty, and betrayal shape the story in this setting.

37. Inside a Fairy Tale Book: Your character stumbles into a book and interacts with famous fairy tale characters.

38. On a Pirate Ship: On the high seas, a crew of misfits seeks out legendary treasures.

39. In a Lighthouse: Solitude, the vast ocean, storms, and the lives of ships passing in the night.

40. In the Catacombs Beneath Paris: The darkness hides secrets, history, and perhaps a few restless spirits.

41. On a Time Traveling Adventure: From dinosaurs to future civilizations, the possibilities are endless.

42. In a Boarding School for Witches and Wizards: Magic, mystery, and coming-of-age stories intertwine.

43. On a Colony on Mars: Humans must adapt to life on the red planet. What challenges will they face?

44. In the Depths of the Ocean: Unexplored and full of strange creatures, what could be lurking in the depths?

45. In the Backstage of a Reality Show: Drama, competition, and the tension between reality and what's portrayed on screen.

46. In a Post-Apocalyptic Bunker: The world has ended. How do those trapped in the bunker cope with the new reality?

47. In a Nomadic Caravan Across the Desert: A journey filled with rich cultures, ancient traditions, and the vast desert landscape.

48. In a Silent Monastery: A setting of silence, introspection, and profound mysteries.

49. In a World Where Animals Can Talk: What if animals could converse with humans? How would this change society?

50. Inside a Snow Globe: A small, idyllic world that becomes a snowy wonderland at a shake. What happens when someone is trapped inside?

51. In a Town Where Nobody Can Lie: Every word spoken is the truth. What consequences could this have?

52. In a World Without Colors: How would life change if everything was in shades of grey? Could your main character bring color back into the world?

53. In a Mysterious Train Traveling Through Time: Every stop is a different era. What are the rules of time travel, and what happens if they're broken?

54. In the Hive Mind of an Alien Species: Experience consciousness on a whole new level.

55. A Hidden City Underneath a Major Metropolis: A secret world beneath the busy city streets.

56. On a Planet Where Music is the Main Form of Communication: How would your characters express themselves in this melodic world?

57. Inside a Bubble Universe: What would life look like within a universe that's shrinking?

58. In a Civilization Living on the Back of a Giant Beast: Explore the symbiotic relationship between the beast and the civilization.

59. On an Island That Appears Only Once Every Hundred Years: Who lives there, and what secrets does the island hold?

60. A World Where Dreams Manifest into Reality: What happens when nightmares start to take shape?

61. Inside a Painting: What is life like in a two-dimensional world?

62. In a Realm Where Time Flows Backward: Your character's age is in reverse, and consequences precede actions.

63. A Floating City in the Sky: Clouds, birds, and the danger of falling - what holds this city aloft?

64. A Planet Covered Entirely in a City: A futuristic mega-city spanning an entire world, like Coruscant in Star Wars.

65. In a Reality Where Everyone's Thoughts are Displayed Above Their Heads: How does society function when no thought can be hidden?

66. On an Interstellar Ark Carrying the Last Remnants of Humanity: What is life like aboard the ship, and what will happen when they reach their destination?

67. In the Memories of an Ageing Time Traveller: Each memory is a different time and place.

68. A Society Living Within the Internet: What does daily life look like in a digital world?

69. A Library with Every Book That Will Ever Be Written: What happens when your characters discover their own stories?

70. In the Belly of an Enormous Cosmic Whale: A whole ecosystem within a creature drifting through space.

71. A Maze That Changes Every Night: Trapped inside, your character must find a way out before they run out of supplies.

72. A World Split Between Day and Night: One side never sees the sun; the other never experiences darkness.

73. In a Reality Where Lies Become Physical Creatures: What happens when a lie takes on a life of its own?

74. A Post-Apocalyptic World Inhabited by Sentient Plants: What happens when the tables are turned, and plants are the dominant species?

75. In a Society Where Ageing is a Choice: Who decides to grow old and who remains young forever?

Remember, the  perfect setting  for your story depends on the mood you want to create, the events that happen and the development of your characters. Choose a setting that ignites your imagination, and the rest will follow.

Each of these story-setting ideas can be a good example for  short stories  or the beginning of a gripping  novel . Whether you're writing for fun or professionally, these setting ideas are sure to get your creative juices flowing. Don't forget to use all your senses to create a vivid world for your readers.

Happy writing!

Frequently Asked Questions About Story Setting Ideas (FAQs)

What are story-setting ideas.

Story setting ideas  refer to the wide range of potential locations, environments, and periods in which a story can take place. These could range from a haunted house in a small town to the bustling life of a big city, the infinite expanse of a space station, or the fantasy world of Tolkien's Middle Earth.

How do story-setting ideas enhance a story?

The right story setting can add depth and richness to your story. It helps to create a mood, forms the backdrop for your characters' experiences, and can even play a pivotal role in the plot. For example, a love story set in the romantic rolling hills of a rural landscape can evoke a completely different feeling than if it's set in a busy, impersonal big city.

How can I generate interesting story-setting ideas?

To generate interesting  story-setting ideas , you can draw inspiration from real-life locations, historical events, famous galleries, or well-known stories. You can also allow your creative juices to flow freely and come up with a setting entirely from your imagination, like a magical school or a dystopian future world. The key is to think about what kind of setting will best support your story and characters.

How can I effectively write a story setting?

To write a story setting effectively:

Show, don't tell : Instead of telling your reader that the town is charming, show them by describing the small coffee shops, the friendly townsfolk, and the peaceful sounds of the morning.

Use all five senses : Describe what your characters see, hear, smell, touch, and taste to create a rich, immersive world for your readers.

Think about how the setting impacts your characters : If your main character is living in a haunted house, how does that affect their daily life and their personality? If they live in a space station, how does the isolation and the view of Earth from afar affect them?

What are some good examples of story-setting ideas?

There are countless good examples of story-setting ideas. Here are a few:

A small town that hides a big secret : Perfect for a mystery or thriller.

A high-pressure professional kitchen in a world-class restaurant : A great setting for drama.

A space station in the far future : Ideal for a science fiction story.

A school for magic : A wonderful setting for a fantasy tale.

How does the setting affect the main character?

The setting can have a huge impact on the main character. It can affect their lifestyle, their job, their personality, and their worldview. For example, a main character living in a rough, crime-ridden city might be more hardened and street-smart than a character living in a quiet, peaceful small town. The setting can also provide challenges and obstacles for the main character to overcome, which helps to drive the story forward.

Can the setting change during the course of the story?

Absolutely! The setting can change during the course of the story, and these changes often contribute to the story's progression. For example, a story might begin in a small town but move to a big city as the main character pursues their dreams.

Can a setting be a character?

Yes, in a way. Some stories are so deeply intertwined with their settings that the setting becomes a character in its own right. It can influence the plot, impact the characters, and evoke feelings in the reader like a human character.

Remember, whether you're writing a short story, a novel, or a romance, the setting plays a crucial role. It's not just where the story happens—it's an integral part of the story itself. So let your imagination soar and create a setting that brings your story to life!

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Gatekeeper Press

Top 7 Story Setting Ideas (by Genre) for the Stumped Writer

by Gatekeeper Press | Feb 2, 2023 | Writing

creative writing story setting

You are bursting at the seams, just dying to write your book idea . You’ve created some interesting characters and have a general idea about the story you’ll tell, but you just can’t come up with a strong story setting in which your tale unfolds. Fear not! This handy guide provides some amazing story setting ideas that are categorized by genre.

The Importance of Setting

Authors take great storytelling to the next level when they create an intriguing setting in which the action takes place. Regardless of the length of the story, whether you are writing short stories or full-length novels, an interesting story setting is a must. Why is that? Shouldn’t the writing itself, combined with some rich character development, be enough to carry the story?

In fact, the setting is an essential literary element that provides the context for the story. The setting establishes the time period and location, as well as the many details and nuances that make that place interesting — a place the reader would love to visit in real life. A compelling story setting elevates the narrative and thus enhances the reader experience.

Examples of Iconic Settings

Consider these beloved books, and how their settings helped to shape the story:

  • The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth was composed of a fantastical world brimming with mystical creatures, like hobbits, elves, dwarves, and some interesting men.
  • Harry Potter. Hogwarts, the illustrious school of wizardry, provided the perfect setting for J.K. Rowling’s imagination to run wild. She filled the school with secret rooms, ghosts, elves, talking portraits, and frightening beasts.
  • The Shining. Stephen King’s thriller was set at the Overlook Hotel in the depths of winter in the off-season when no guests are present…except the dead ones. The stark, snowy landscape and the cavernous hotel added to the ominous vibe of the tale.

7 Story Setting Ideas (by G enre)

If your brain is not cooperating with your quest for a great story setting, consider some of these creative writing prompts for settings :

  • An enchanted forest
  • An underwater kingdom
  • A deserted city
  • The mountains
  • A tunnel system

Science Fiction

  • An underground city
  • A different planet
  • A meteoroid
  • A space station
  • A rocket ship
  • The A rctic
  • Inside a dream
  • A coffee shop or café
  • A high school or college campus
  • A military base
  • A summer camp
  • A small town


  • In the woods
  • A cabin or retreat center
  • A haunted house
  • A police station
  • A courtroom
  • An abandoned building

Tips for Choosing a Story Setting Idea

Whether your story takes place in a mental institution, a gritty inner city, or on a fictional planet, the setting is vital to driving your novel. Keep in mind that your story setting is much more than just a geographical place; it includes climate, natural features, and other details that give it life, depth, and breadth. 

There are limitless story-setting ideas to ponder, limited only by an author’s imagination.

Here are some handy tips to help you choose the best story setting for your project :

  • Consider your characters and their history. There should be alignment between your characters, the time period, their life history, and the setting in which you place them. First, see if you can imagine your hero navigating life in the setting you’ve selected , and if not, try another.
  • Consider your genre. Your genre helps determine decisions about whether your setting is a real place or a figment of your imagination. Beyond that distinction, settings should fit the genre to some degree.
  • Aim for a unique story setting. Avoid stereotypical settings as much as possible by adding some unique touches to the setting details. If an imaginary setting is the goal, access your world-building skills to create something unique.
  • Try out some different settings. Before committing to one particular story setting, why not test-drive a few? Write some test scenes for your main character in different settings to decide which one resonates most.
  • Consider your plotline. Avoid choosing a setting that could hinder the action. While a romance can literally take place in one very defined setting, such as a library, a thriller may require a whole city or county for the action to unfold. Your plot may require a more expansive setting so do consider the character’s goals.

Work with Gatekeeper Press for Self-Publishing

Once you’ve completed your first draft, have the expert editors at Gatekeeper Press help you fine-tune the best setting for your story. For even more impact, the design team at Gatekeeper Press can create a book cover that really brings your setting to life. Contact us today to get started !

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creative writing story setting


Top 200 Setting Ideas for a Story, from Expert Writers

Last Updated on October 20, 2023 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD

If you’re looking for inspiration for your next story idea, look no further! This article has 500 setting ideas to help get your creative juices flowing. Expert writers have contributed their favorite settings , so you’re sure to find something that sparks your imagination. With this wealth of ideas at your fingertips, you can write a truly unique story or write a paper online with someone’s help. Short story ideas don’t get much better than this.

List of the Top 200 Setting Ideas for Writing a Story

  • A dark forest full of traps and magical creatures
  • The seafloor
  • A derelict space station floating in orbit around a distant planet
  • An abandoned amusement park at night
  • The surface of an unknown planet, far away from Earth
  • The center of a massive mountain range where nobody has ever ventured
  • A massive library full of real, physical books that no one has ever read before
  • The very tip-top floor of a massive skyscraper
  • An isolated prison in the middle of an endless desert
  • The house is at the end of a long, winding road leading to nowhere else but more road with no landmarks or distinguishing characteristics
  • A small farmhouse on a large plot of farmland, surrounded by woods and swamps on all sides
  • An abandoned warehouse filled with secret passageways that are impossible to find without help from someone who knows them by heart
  • The surface of Mars during sunrise over Olympus Mons Crater
  • On an elevated platform at the center of a small island
  • The very, very bottom floor of a massive skyscraper that has been abandoned since construction was completed
  • An underground cave system where one can go for days without seeing sunlight or another living being
  • A space shuttle orbiting around Jupiter
  • In the belly of a massive whale as it swims through dark, frigid waters filled with horrific monsters and other life forms from Earth’s deepest nightmares.
  • On the surface of Venus during sunrise over Sif Mons Crater
  • In a massive library filled to the brim with books so old, they crumble to dust when touched by human hands, at least if their age is not protected by magic or advanced technology beyond what humanity understands today
  • A massive tree with a labyrinth of interconnected rooms and underground tunnels deep within its roots, filled with strange creatures like nothing ever seen on Earth before
  • The center of the sun
  • In the mouth of a massive dragon as it flies through the sky
  • On an abandoned oil platform in the middle of an ocean where strange sea creatures lurk and unknowable horrors hide just out of sight under dark, stormy waters
  • Beneath the surface of Europa during sunrise over Valhalla Crater
  • A massive cave system that has been occupied by orcs for centuries upon centuries
  • An endless desert where sandstorms strike without warning and can carry entire structures away if they aren’t built properly to withstand the elements
  • A small, floating island somewhere in the Indian Ocean that is only accessible every seven years when the tides pull it closer to other islands and civilizations ashore
  • In a tent at a massive music festival miles away from civilization
  • Underground while being chased by trolls with weapons forged from precious metals and stones no human has ever seen before
  • On a far-off planet orbiting a distant star where friendly inhabitants will welcome you with open arms, but be careful about what you accept or take from them–the planetary economy might not be able to handle Earth’s money supply
  • Inside Amazon forest
  • In a small town in the center of a large valley surrounded by dense forests and thick swamps
  • In a dark alley in New York City at night, desperately trying to find your way home from work before something bad happens
  • A small town that has been cut off from civilization for centuries upon centuries, isolated from humanity behind seemingly impenetrable walls built to keep out dangerous monsters that lurk outside the village’s limits
  • A small shuttlecraft piloted by an AI on its way to explore Pluto and beyond
  • In a massive city made of towers stacking high into the sky, each one attached to another by bridges and elevators that stretch from floor to floor
  • A single room in an apartment complex near a major city where strange noises and smells come from beneath the floorboards late at night
  • The depths of an ancient jungle filled with giant trees and nocturnal predators whose roars echo through the forest like nothing ever heard before on Earth
  • Atop a large mountain looking down upon a vast desert filled with sand dunes as far as the eye can see
  • On an abandoned oil platform in the middle of an ocean where strange sea creatures lurk, and unknowable horrors hide just out of sight under dark, stormy waters
  • Across the surface of Europa during sunrise over Valhalla Crater
  • Outdoor Skating Rink
  • Seaside Towns
  • Parisian Cafe
  • Middle Eastern Bazaar
  • Rain Forest
  • Hollywood Theatre
  • Moto X Track
  • Train Station
  • Castle Dungeon
  • Greek Island Resort
  • Alaskan Wilderness
  • Redwood Forest
  • Subway Station
  • Ocean Liner
  • Space Shuttle LaunchPad
  • English Countryside Manor House
  • Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Theatre
  • Disneyland Park
  • Sports Stadiums and Arenas
  • Military Bases and
  • Palace and Gardens of Versailles
  • Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • Central Park in New York City
  • Amusement Parks
  • Water Parks and Theme Piers
  • Stadiums and Arenas (Indoor)
  • Museum of Natural History (NYC)
  • Casinos & Gentlemen’s Clubs
  • Lighthouses
  • The White House (Washington, DC)
  • Fruit and Vegetable Market in South Central LA
  • Airports and Airlines
  • Ships Before They Sink
  • Space Satellite Control Center (Houston)
  • High-Rise Buildings (NYC, Chicago, etc.)
  • The Planet Mars
  • Mountain Ranges on Earth
  • Urban Streets of Any Large City
  • Rural Towns in Any Region of the World
  • Movie Premiere Venues, Awards Shows & Conventions
  • Night Clubs & Bars (NYC)
  • The Great Wall of China (Northern China)
  • Russian State Duma Building (Moscow)
  • Cliffs of Moher (Ireland)
  • Rio de Janeiro City Streets During Carnival
  • Harbor Alley in Hong Kong at Night
  • Abandoned Amusement Parks (Asbury Park, New Jersey)
  • The North Pole and the Arctic Ocean
  • Concert Halls & Opera Houses
  • Any Major Sports Stadium or Arena
  • Movie Theatres
  • Public Parks
  • Downtown Zoos & Aquariums
  • Gas Stations & Convenience Stores
  • Clothing Racks in High-End Department Stores
  • Shopping Malls
  • Museums, Art Galleries, Libraries & Historical Sites
  • War Memorials and Monuments
  • Historic Homes and Buildings
  • Restaurants with Diners Outside
  • Boardwalks with Shops and Stands
  • Famous Hotel Pools & Resorts
  • The Great Pyramids of Giza (Northern Egypt)
  • Miles of Seawall in Galveston, Texas
  • Inside a Presidential Limousine Riding Through Town
  • Carnival Cruise Ships
  • A futuristic manufacturing facility
  • A world filled with genetically modified creatures
  • An old-west town that has been magically restored to its 19th century glory days (and beyond!)
  • A lighthouse on an isolated island
  • A rickety old wooden bridge collapsed into the raging river below it
  • An industrial complex filled with glowing debris and strange machinery
  • A castle in the middle of a deep, dark forest
  • A boarding school built on an alien planet
  • The edge of space broken by an enormous asteroid field and marked with craters and jagged ridges where stars have fallen to Earth (and beyond!)
  • A tropical archipelago filled with exotic wildlife that is home to dangerous sea life
  • A quiet coastal town full of quaint little houses sitting at the bottom end of a steep cliffside overlooking calm, glassy waters
  • An untamed wilderness filled with wild creatures and beasts of many kinds
  • A world where the sun is just a bright point in the sky, but there are entire civilizations out there that have completely abandoned their star for another one entirely. There’s no way to travel between them without making a trip through an inter-dimensional rift or wormhole
  • A futuristic mega-city at night, full of glowing billboards advertising products that no one will ever buy (and there’s a great deal more to discover!)
  • A forgotten temple complex nestled in the foothills of a dormant volcano
  • An isolated corner of the cosmos, lit only by distant stars and several smaller moons
  • A frozen wasteland
  • The Oval Office of the White House
  • Slum Areas in Any Major City Around the World
  • Abandon Prison Camps from WWI and WWII
  • In a cave deep beneath a mountain on another world
  • Entirely Inside a Computer Program
  • The deck of a pirate ship sailing the open seas
  • A tropical island forgotten by time
  • A train caught in an avalanche
  • Inside the body of a giant monster rampaging through the countryside, looking for something to eat
  • A city made entirely out of ice and snow.
  • An empty school after everyone has gone home for the day
  • A derelict luxury liner adrift in space (with a secret inside!)
  • Inside an Imaginarium (or similar fantasy machine)
  • Construction Sites
  • Any city street, alleyway, or back-alley
  • A cruise ship adrift at sea
  • An aircraft carrier or battleship sitting in the middle of an abandoned port
  • An ancient temple deep within a jungle
  • The inside of a spaceship or space station has crash-landed on an alien world (and beyond!)
  • A barren desert with nothing more than dead land for as far as the eye can see
  • Any massive stadium or sports arena that has been abandoned by its owners
  • A crowded subway train at rush hour
  • The inside of a refrigerator, freezer, walk-in cooler, meat locker, etc.
  • A wealthy man’s lavish estate sitting alone on top of a hill overlooking the city below it
  • The peak of an active volcano
  • Ancient Underground Cities
  • On the set of a cheesy old science fiction movie from the 1960s
  • A lush jungle of tall, sprawling trees that are completely covered in thick vines and tangled undergrowth
  • A strange world where everything looks wrong (that’s how it always starts!)
  • A post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by desperate survivors scavenging for resources to survive another day. There are still pockets of civilization here and there, but they have fallen into chaos as the population has dwindled due to starvation or plague. The landscape is littered with debris from the former days, while the skies are a burning orange and red. The air is thick with ash and dust, making breathing difficult at best.
  • A mysterious technological planet filled with massive construction projects that seem to have no purpose whatsoever
  • An alien world full of colorful plants/animals (and other creatures) that somehow still manages to be boring as hell. There aren’t many places for settlers to set up shop, so it’s mostly just a large.
  • A beautiful world filled to the brim with dragons and other amazing creatures, but also completely devoid of life.
  • A peaceful world with lush fields, rolling hills, and deep forests where life is bright and cheery. The sky is always clear blue; there are no storms or hurricanes to be found.
  • Mount Rushmore
  • The inside of a giant glass dome where the air is breathable, no one can see in or out. The inhabitants are completely cut off from the outside world (except radio communications)
  • A once proud civilization was reduced to ruins by an unknown enemy.
  • The cold vacuum of space, where nothing lives or grows
  • A quiet little town that has been completely abandoned for reasons still being investigated. It’s everyone for themselves out here in the wasteland, and sometimes people just get sick of living life on their own
  • The inside of a massive haunted house or castle
  • The inside of a giant amusement park filled with all sorts of rides and attractions. Unfortunately, the park has been deserted for decades, so anything that can move is inoperable. The vast majority of people who went missing over the years were just sucked into this place when they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • A peaceful village in the mountains where everything is quiet and calm. It’s all fun and games until someone shows up with a gun, demanding whatever valuables you might be hiding away. Once they get what they want, you’re either forced into servitude or simply executed on the spot (depending on how nice their boss happens to be feeling at the time)
  • The inside of a department store during the busiest shopping day of the year
  • A dark and dangerous world where mutants, robots, cyborgs, zombies, and other vile creatures are constantly trying to kill each other.
  • Inside the great pyramid of Giza
  • A massive cruise ship that has been stranded at sea
  • A futuristic manufacturing facility with
  • A city of the undead
  • A post-apocalyptic wasteland
  • A futuristic sports arena inside a mountain range
  • A great white wasteland covered entirely in snow and ice. The temperature is far too cold for any sort of human settlement.
  • A crowded coffee shop
  • An abandoned mansion
  • A field in springtime
  • An erupting volcano
  • The cockpit of an airplane during takeoff or landing in rough weather (I like this one. I’d go for the cockpit of a passenger airliner.)
  • A library at night
  • The first row at a rock concert
  • Mount Everest
  • Underwater (Like “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”)
  • On top of a skyscraper during a thunderstorm at night (Like that part in Spiderman 3 where Spidey’s fighting the Lizard and what’s-his-name.)
  • On the ring road around Paris at rush hour (I’ve never been to France, but it sure sounds like hell in this instance.)

The Importance of Setting in Creative Writing

The setting is the blueprint from which your story is built. Knowing how to use it effectively can turn a good story into a great one and a mediocre story into a complete failure.

The advantages of a good setting are many:

1) It creates a sense of comfort in the reader who reads your short story.

2) It can increase suspense when used properly.

3) It adds depth and realism to the story, making it easier for readers to escape their daily lives and immerse themselves in your work.

4) If you do it right, it can give your story an amazing and lasting sense of wonder and nostalgia.

5) The story setting becomes a character in and of itself, with its motives and goals that may or may not align with those of the main characters (or even change as the story goes on).

6) It helps to make your writing more vivid and concise.

7) It becomes a tool you can utilize to provide foreshadowing and build tension.

8) It helps determine plot direction, character motivation, pacing, etc.

9) It becomes one of the first things your readers will notice about your work, so it must be done right from the beginning.

The setting is the foundation upon which your story is built. Do it wrong, and your efforts will come crumbling down around you, but get it right, and you’ll have a masterpiece on your hands.

Thanks for reading my blog, and Happy Writing ! What’s your favorite kind of setting? Mine is anything post-apocalyptic, as long as there are mutants and zombies. 🙂

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  • What is Setting in Creative Writing? Elements of Story Writing.
  • Self Publishing Guide

What is Setting in Creative Writing? Elements of Story Writing.

Setting in creative writing  is an essential  element of writing  that creates the backdrop for a story. It refers to the physical location, time, and environment in which the story takes place. The setting of a story can be an important aspect that shapes the characters and events of the story. In this blog, we will discuss what setting is and how it can be used effectively in creative writing.

Setting of the Story:

The  setting of a story  can be defined as the time, place, and environment in which the events of the story take place. It can be a specific geographic location, such as a city, country, or even a fictional world. The setting can also include the time period, such as the past, present, or future. Moreover, the setting can include the physical environment, including the climate, terrain, and natural features. let’s explore the concept of setting in creative writing with an example. Consider the following excerpt from  “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee :

“Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”

Read:  What is Narrative Writing? Here’s a list of Elements in Creative Writing.

In this excerpt, we can see that the setting of the story is Maycomb, a small town in Alabama. The author provides us with vivid descriptions of the town’s physical environment, such as the rainy weather that turns the streets to red slop and the grass growing on the sidewalks. 

We can also see that the setting is in the past, as the author uses phrases such as “when I first knew it” and references to Hoover carts and stiff collars. The author also includes descriptions of the natural features, such as the live oaks on the square, which helps to create a sense of place for the reader.

The setting in this example is an essential element of the story, as it creates a specific atmosphere and mood that complements the events and themes of the story. The description of Maycomb as a tired old town with sagging buildings and sweltering heat helps to establish a sense of the town’s decay and stagnation, which is a central theme of the novel. Additionally, the setting is used to highlight the characters’ emotions and relationships with each other and their environment.

Setting as a Character:

In some stories, the setting can also function as a character. In these cases, the setting takes on a life of its own and influences the events and characters of the story. For example, a story set in a small town with oppressive heat and drought can create a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere that affects the characters’ behavior and choices. let’s explore the concept of setting as a character in creative writing with an example. Consider the following excerpt from “The Shining” by  Stephen King :

“The Overlook Hotel was his own invention, the site being inspired by a dream he had during a family vacation at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The hotel’s fictional location of Sidewinder, Colorado, is situated on the actual location of Estes Park, where King had stayed with his wife Tabitha in the Stanley Hotel, during the summer of 1974.”

In this example, we can see how the setting of the story – the Overlook Hotel – can function as a character. Throughout the novel, the hotel takes on a life of its own, influencing the events and characters of the story. The hotel’s eerie, isolated location in the Rocky Mountains, along with its history of violence and tragic events, creates a foreboding atmosphere that affects the characters’ behavior and choices. Moreover, the hotel’s supernatural abilities, such as the ability to manipulate time and space, adds to its character-like presence in the story.

The Overlook Hotel’s role as a character is central to the story, as it acts as both a physical and psychological antagonist to the protagonist, Jack Torrance. The hotel’s malevolent influence pushes Jack towards madness and violence, and ultimately drives the story towards its climactic conclusion.

Thus, the concept of setting as a character in creative writing can be a powerful tool to enhance the atmosphere and mood of a story. When executed effectively, it can add depth and complexity to the story’s themes and characters.

Settings of a Book:

The settings of a book can be varied and diverse, depending on the author’s vision and the story’s requirements. A book can be set in a specific location, such as a city or a rural area, or it can be set in a fictional world with unique geography and rules. The time period can also vary, ranging from historical settings to futuristic ones. Moreover, the environment can be a significant factor in the setting, including elements such as weather, climate, and geography.

“Carrie” by Stephen King  is a great example of how setting can be an essential element of story writing. The novel is set in a small town in Maine, where Carrie White, the protagonist, lives with her abusive mother. The story is set in the 1970s and is set against the backdrop of social change and unrest in America.

Read:  A complete guide on how to publish short stories online for free.

The setting of the small town is used to create a sense of isolation and claustrophobia that contributes to the tension and horror of the story. The town is portrayed as a conservative and oppressive community that is intolerant of difference and outsiders. This environment contributes to the development of Carrie’s character as she struggles to find acceptance and connection amidst the town’s hostility.

Moreover, the setting serves as a foil against which the supernatural elements of the story are highlighted. As Carrie’s telekinetic powers develop, the natural elements of the setting, such as weather and geography, become increasingly distorted and threatening. This creates a sense of escalating danger and tension that contributes to the story’s horror.

Therefore, the setting of “Carrie” plays an essential role in shaping the story’s characters and themes, as well as contributing to its mood and atmosphere. The effective use of setting is an important element of story writing that can help to create a memorable and immersive reading experience.

Elements of Story Writing:

Setting is an essential element of story writing, along with plot, characters, theme, and style. It can be used to create a mood or atmosphere that complements the story’s events and themes. The setting can also serve as a backdrop against which the characters’ struggles and conflicts are highlighted. Effective use of setting can help to immerse the reader in the story and make the events and characters feel more real.

Elements of a Short Story:

In a  short story , the setting is often used to create a concise and focused backdrop for the story’s events. The setting can be used to establish the mood, tone, and atmosphere of the story. Moreover, the setting can be used to highlight the characters’ emotions and thoughts, as well as their relationships with each other and their environment.

In conclusion, setting is an essential  element of creative writing  that creates the backdrop for a story. It can be used effectively to create a mood or atmosphere, highlight the characters’ struggles, and make the events and characters feel more real. As such, it is an important element to consider when crafting a story, and its effective use can greatly enhance the reader’s experience. 

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Creative writing Characters, plot and setting

A short story usually centres around a significant moment in the lives of the characters, told either by one of the characters (first person) or by a narrator.

Characters, plot and setting

Different types of character queuing for an audition

your characters are at the heart of the story. They must seem real and you should aim to make the audience care about them. The plot of the story should reveal something about your characters. For example, the reader should see them developing, at a crisis or a turning point in their lives.

Your characters should also be consistent - doing and saying things that seem to fit their personality.

Limit the number of main characters to a maximum of three.

Also, try not to simply tell your reader about the character - reveal the character to them through actions, gestures and dialogue.

Something of significance must happen in a short story. It is advisable, however, to limit the number of events happening in the plot.

A significant event does not have to be unusually dramatic or violent. Your characters do not have to be abducted by aliens or involved in international terrorism. If you try to make your story too exciting it can become 'over the top'.

A significant event is just one that changes the character. For example, something that makes them grow up, come to a realisation about something or develop. The event itself does not need to be dramatic.

Conflict can arise when a third character affects the lives of two others. Examples of this could be:

  • A parent and teenager come into conflict over the teenager's friend.
  • Two friends come into conflict when a new friend comes on the scene.
  • Parent and teenager have problems when a grandparent comes to stay.
  • A new teacher causes problems between two friends.

Two alternative settings for a story, one urban and one rural

Setting is where and when your story takes place. An effective setting can make your story really come to life. You can make your setting effective by using description, dialogue and details.

If you are struggling with setting, it can be easier to set the story in a place you are familiar with. Your description can draw on your experience and is more likely to be realistic.

More guides on this topic

  • Descriptive
  • Personal reflective

Related links

  • BBC Skillswise
  • BBC Writers Room
  • SQA National 5 English
  • Skills You Need - Presentation
  • Writing a Descriptive Essay
  • Scottish Poetry Library
  • BBC 500 words
  • How to write a story
  • How to write a novel
  • How to write poetry
  • How to write a script
  • How to write a memoir
  • How to write a mystery
  • Creative journaling
  • Publishing advice
  • Story starters
  • Poetry prompts
  • For teachers

Ideas for Novels and Stories

Your character's desire....

  • a reader of romance novels who wants to live a love story of her own.
  • an amateur naturalist whose dream is to discover a new type of animal.
  • a character who wants to achieve a world record -- he doesn't care for what.
  • a character who dreams of starting a new life in a foreign country.
  • a character who wants to rob a jewelry shop and has a foolproof (s/he hopes) plan to get away with it.
  • a character with no living grandparents, who wants to adopt a grandmother.

20 professions for your main character

  • Taxi driver
  • Scuba instructor
  • Marriage counselor
  • Prison guard
  • Beauty pageant contestant
  • Cookbook author
  • Computer hacker
  • Archaeologist
  • Lead singer of an unsuccessful rock band
  • Gossip magazine journalist
  • Divorce lawyer
  • Animal trainer
  • Video game designer
  • High school football coach
  • Flight attendant
  • Stunt actor
  • What kind of person would you expect to find in this profession? See if you can play against stereotypes and surprise the reader.
  • What kind of interesting situation might someone in this profession encounter? What kind of trouble might he/she run into? How might s/he react?

10 great story settings

  • in a tattoo parlor
  • at the zoo at night
  • in an abandoned mental hospital
  • in a submarine
  • in a magnet factory
  • in the vault of a bank
  • in a bridal shop
  • in the kitchen of Buckingham Palace
  • on the edge of a cliff
  • entirely in the dark

woman writing down ideas for novels

Story Ideas - Next Steps

  • 44 story ideas
  • "Explain that baby" and other story starters
  • Story beginnings and "What if" prompts
  • See a list of all Creative Writing Now pages with ideas for novels and stories.

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Setting of a Story: 8 Tips for Creating an Immersive Setting

POSTED ON Oct 25, 2023

Nishoni Harvey

Written by Nishoni Harvey

The setting of a story is a powerful driver for hooking readers. 

Does your setting help tell your story? Does it deepen your plot and enrich your characters? Does your setting engage the reader by setting the mood and increasing the emotional connection to your characters? What is the setting of a story, anyway?

All of these are important questions that you should be asking yourself if you are crafting the setting of a story.

But getting your setting “properly written” can be a hit or miss. Too many details, and they get skimmed and skipped. But not enough details, and the characters will have no place to just “be.” 

I said that setting enriches the characters. What I didn’t tell you is that it helps to form the characters and even the characters' motivations . It does the same for the plot.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to write the setting of a story so that it's engaging to your readers. 

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This blog on book settings will cover:

What is the setting of a story .

The setting of a story is the context in a scene or story that describes the elements in which a story takes place, including time, place, and environment . Each component in the setting helps to build the narrative's mood, plot, and character development .

Many people mistakenly believe that the setting is only the backdrop to the story when, in fact, it includes everything that has to do with the social environment, place, and time .

What Is The Setting Of A Story

What is the setting of a story's purpose?

In short, the setting of a story has an important purpose in providing the reader with context on the narrative, such as describing the when and where of the setting.

Where does it take place? What's the social climate? What time period is it? What important events are happening in the world? What are the social norms and expectations? What's the weather like? What season is it in? These are all questions that serve a purpose in the story's setting.

What is an example of a setting?

Here is an example of the setting of a story from author Nora Roberts, who is describing Ireland in The Dark Witch : “The cold carved bone deep , fueled by the lash of the wind , iced by the drowning rain gushing from a bloated sky . Such was Iona's welcome to Ireland . She loved it. How could she not? she asked herself as she hugged her arms to her chest and drank in the wild, soggy view from her window. She was standing in a castle . She'd sleep in a castle that night. An honest-to-God castle in the heart of the west .”

Notice the bolded words, and how they help the reader envision the place, social environment, and time of the story.

There are many stellar examples of setting written not only in fiction novels , but also in non-fiction books as well.

Let’s go through another setting of a story example, and how it relates to the experience a reader has.

If I were to talk about the old Volkswagen Beetle that Sarah was sitting in as she was bouncing down a bumpy back alleyway in Manhattan, you’d know where she was.

If I were to write about the Volkswagen—musty with the strong smell of stale sweat hanging heavy in the air, the plot thickens.

If I were to show you that the sky is dark, there’s a cold drizzle outside, the wind is gusty, and that Sarah’s inner thoughts reflect that, “Even the weather knows how I feel,” we have some insight into the depressed state of the protagonist.

Show, don't tell in your writing . Show the readers the setting of a story through powerful writing and the use of literary devices . 

Why is the setting of a story important? 

The setting of a story is important because it provides the reader with context on the time, place, and environment that the story takes place in. It is also important because it improves the reader's experience and adds to the story's development with plot, mood, and characters.

Whether you are learning how to write a nonfiction book or a novel, the setting of a story is crucial to that story’s development, and the reader’s experience, for a number of reasons. 

Setting Of A Story

Here's why the setting of a story is important:

  • It connects the story's elements. An effective story setting connects the characters to the plot, and ties together the book's themes and events.
  • It builds meaning to the narrative . Without the setting, there may not be as much meaning to be gleaned since setting provides context.
  • It elicits emotional responses in the reader. When readers are engaged in your story's setting, they will be actively reading and invested in experiencing the narrative and how it unfolds.
  • It helps readers visualize your story. Authors use setting to describe the environment, time, and place for the reader, which provides more context and engages the reader.
  • It improves the story's flow. With an effective, well-crafted setting in your narrative, the plot will flow together well, and the events will feel real.

How to decide the setting of a story

When you’re learning how to write a book , there are three important points you should consider when deciding where the story’s setting will be.

Choose A Setting

Make your setting fit the purpose of your plot

Your setting should be aligned to your plot so that it all makes sense to your reader, and is realistic. 

Are you trying for a murder mystery? To fit that purpose, make the story setting be in Chicago with high crime rates, many places to hide, and a resourceful police station.

Do you want it to feel fast-paced, or like a slow and steady Sherlock Holmes mystery? To accomplish that, a rural, backwoods setting will be more appropriate. 

See how the setting of a story should make sense for the overall plot?

Make the setting fit the story

The setting of a story should fit the actual story; things, events, or objects within a story’s setting should not feel out of place to the reader, based on prior knowledge of a place or time period. 

For example, does the Volkswagen on the bumpy road carry a car full of lawbreakers? They’ll probably not want to draw attention. Place them in America in an era when old Volkswagens were common.

Make the setting fit your character

Last but not least, the setting of a story should always be aligned with the main characters found within that story. In other words, you should build your setting and your character bio template simultaneously. 

For example, is your character shy and withdrawn? Have her sitting on the ledge surrounding the red brick school building writing short stories in her mom’s old notebook instead of enjoying recess with the other kids.

How to research the setting of a story

When researching the setting a story, there are many things to consider:

  • What nationalities are represented in the population?
  •  How dense is the population?
  • What is the primary religion of the area?
  • What other religions are there?
  •  What old wives’ tales and superstitions are there that might shape the plot and the reactions of the main character and the population to outside influences?
  • What are the terrain and other geographical features?
  • What are the typical weather patterns for that time of year?
  • What is the climate like?
  • What is the government like?
  •  What is the history of the area?

Story Setting Research

Some helpful sources for researching the setting of a story are:

  • Visiting the place in person. This is the best way to get a real-life, hands-on feel for a setting, but it's not always possible, especially if you don't have a budget or if you're writing about an imaginary place.
  • YouTube . You can do a quick search on YouTube to find footage of many sites.
  • Google Earth . This is a great resource, and one that will give you an idea of the terrain and general appearance of a place.
  • Encyclopedias . Don't forget to use a handy encyclopedia!
  • National Geographic . It's a great resource for high quality images.
  • Newspapers. While more time consuming than doing a quick online search, they are first-hand research.
  • Photos . Do a Google search for “photos of [what you are searching for]”
  • Archives . First-hand research where you're sure to find a wealth of information on your topic.

Research Story Setting

8 tips for how to write the setting of a story

Creating an engaging setting for your reader can be difficult. Think of the setting like a very large puzzle – it takes a lot of detailed pieces to make the big picture appear seamless. 

Through detailed research and a lot of thought, you can create a setting that aligns for your reader by using these tips. 

1. Decide what mood you’re trying to establish

Mood is defined as the overall feeling the reader has when reading a story, and it is created by the author. 

What mood are you trying to establish? 

How do you want readers to feel as they read your story? Think on that, then create that mood with your writing. 

Think of it in terms of this: A bright summer morning in the middle of a large, grassy park where happy families are out and about casts a much different mood than a dark forest with crooked, gnarled trees and low-hanging fog.

2. Decide which period or moment best fits the context of your story

The time period plays a huge part in developing the setting of a story. 

What kind of plot do you have? Does it best fit into medieval Europe, America’s 1960s, or in current time? Or maybe it fits better in the future? 

Look at the language you’re planning to use—the idioms, quotes, and expressions. Look at the props and the way the characters view them.

Consider how the different people in the book are treated. Are the elderly respected? Are the police viewed as an authority? Are the parents held in regard? In what regard do people hold the churches and the government?

All of these things and more have a bearing on the time period your story will fall into.

Sometimes, the best gauge of what time period your story setting should be in is to consider a time you know well and have loved. If you felt an emotional connection to that time, you’ll be able to convey that to your readers, and that’s what writing is all about.

3. Know the atmosphere you need to portray

As you write the setting of a story, you need to think about the atmosphere that you need to portray for the reader. 

Is the scene one with high tension? Write your setting in a way that implies an atmosphere of high tension.

For example, maybe James and Lisa are working up toward an argument. Why would Lisa be noticing soft fluffy clouds above her head, singing birds, and the warmth of the sun’s bright rays? When you read that description, you probably think about relaxation and peace – not tense emotion. 

Writing Setting Of A Story

4. Incorporate all elements of a story

Remember that the setting of a story includes more than the terrain, weather, and climate of the place.

We already discussed some of the other elements that are involved in the setting of a story. Some of these are the government, religion, superstitions, and population. But how do you write them into your story?

You should know all these little details in depth, but it doesn’t mean you’ll use it all directly in your story’s setting.

Only use what’s necessary to describe the setting adequately. No more. No less. Write it in surrounded by action, and don’t forget to break it up throughout the story.

Setting descriptions aren't only needed in the beginning, but everywhere you need the plot deepened and your characters enhanced.

5. Use all five senses when you’re describing the setting

When you’re walking through a room or down the street, do you see it as two-dimensional? No. You experience every part of that walk. You use every one of your five senses.

You want your readers to experience your story through each of their senses, too. An easy way to do this is by using literary elements in your writing. 

Begin by describing what you want them to see. When you do, describe it the same way the eye travels in real life. Start with the focal point, then move across in a straight line.

Next, your main character would naturally notice what they hear. Don’t describe everything they hear, just the most relevant and obvious ones.

What do they smell? Is the air dusty? Is someone cooking breakfast?

Have them touch things. They can run their hand over the smooth desk, feel the rough board, and handle the cold metal rod.

Lastly, explore their sense of taste. Your main character won’t use this sense as much, but you do want to be sure to use it.

Remember, you don’t only taste when you put something in your mouth. Something can “smell so good that you can almost taste it.”

Sprinkle these details in – don’t feel that you have to describe each and every little thing; otherwise, you’ll overwhelm your reader. 

Practice writing some scenes, and it will start to come naturally to you!

6. Don’t describe the setting of a story all at once

You don’t want to give your readers an encyclopedia of facts. They won’t read them. They’ll skip them, or might even close your book altogether.

When you start your book with a wall of details, your readers are more likely to put down your book to never pick it up again. Your readers will skim or skip later clumps of setting as they try to get back to the action.

Since the setting of a story is so essential to the plot and characters, it’s very important that you stretch it out enough that it will be read and enjoyed.

Write the setting in as part of the action, adding in a piece here and there. 

A tip: Learn how to write dialogue in a way that engages your reader and helps build the setting. You can experiment with first-person, second-person POV , and third-person POV to find the best way to pull people into the setting.

Here is an example of a well-written piece.

Setting Of A Story

7. Don't over-describe the setting of a story

Here’s why you shouldn’t over-describe the setting of a story:

  • You stifle your reader’s imagination. You must leave some details up to the imagination. You want your readers to be involved in the story. Otherwise, you’ll lose them.
  • You knock your readers out of the story. The quickest way to get a reader to desert your story is to front-load them with too many descriptions. 
  • You don’t need to include every detail. Appeal to your readers’ knowledge of the world. Tell your readers the machine sounds like a buzzing bee. You don’t need to describe the sound.

8. Remember that the setting of a story has a direct effect on the character and plot

Our environment affects our mood – this is true for almost every human! So, it shouldn’t be any different for the characters in your story, since they should be life-like. 

Let’s look at some examples. 

If Lisa lives in mid-Michigan, where it’s dark and dank all winter long, she may become depressed as many people do.

If she lives in a trailer in the middle of nowhere with the frigid air seeping in through the cracks in the door and a furnace that won’t stay lit, her character will beg for our sympathies.

If she has a toddler playing on the cold floors and a deadbeat ex-boyfriend who won’t provide for his child, we have the beginning of a plot.

Do you see how the plot and characters are directly affected by the story’s setting?

You might be thinking, “That’s all good and well, but what if I want to create a setting in a science-fiction or fantasy realm?” Let's discuss some tips for writing a compelling fictional setting.

Our top tips for how to write a fictional setting

If you want to create the setting of a story that takes place in a world that doesn’t exist yet, creating a fictional setting is an option! There are few ways to do this. 

How To Write Story Setting

Develop the setting fully before you begin writing

Before you pick up your pen to write, be sure that your setting is fully developed! 

You don’t want to get to the end of your book, only to edit it and find you have to rewrite large portions. Fully developing the setting of a story will save you hours of work later.

Not fully developing your story from the beginning could end with it back in the writing stage after an edit!

Sit down. Answer all the questions in the section on how to research a setting. Make notes, whether that be in a Microsoft document, Scrivener , Pinterest, Evernote , the project notebook method, or some other method.

Think about this: J. R. R. Tolkien had his setting researched so thoroughly that he had books full of information on the world and the characters before he even began writing.

Create your world first

You have an exciting task ahead of you: You get to create a world! And no one can tell you that you’re doing it wrong. However, world-building can be hard.

Not only is it time-consuming, but it’s difficult to form an immediate connection between your setting and your readers.

They won’t have any idea what an “ebony irbit” looks like, and your main character won’t be able to tell them that it’s “fluffy as a bunny” or “that it jumps like a grasshopper” since she’ll have no reference for such things. You’ll have to describe everything in detail.

Create your setting second

Once a fictitious world is built, the setting of a story can be created. 

You need to create every aspect of your story’s setting before you move onto writing your book.

For example, how many suns will your main character look up and see? How many moons?

What about the plant life? Are the plants vibrant or dull? Where do they grow? Are they populous? Are they carnivorous? Do the characters eat of the plants? How do they get the fruit and vegetables?

Are the animals simple pets or advanced creatures? Do they live in peaceful harmony, almost symbiotic, or are they at constant war with the population?

Think outside the box when it comes to creating the setting of a story for a fictional world. 

You need enough details to make the world believable

You need more details in a fictitious setting than you do in a real setting—the reason being that your readers have no frame of reference from which to draw.

For context: People have a pretty good idea what the Manhattan skyline looks like, but you’ll have to describe the horizon of your world looks like in detail.

You indeed want us to use our imagination, but it’s your job to guide it.

We need to know the color of the sky if it’s anything other than blue. We need to know about the acid rain that comes every night and cleanses the land of the evil creatures that dare prowl in the dark.

Tell us about the magician’s lair that Jabesh fell into while running through the woods. Describe the water running down the walls and how he felt a cold chill run down his spine as he peered into the darkness leading toward a single burning torch.

Give us details. Use specific words. Tell us what we need to know, but don’t pile it on. And remember, don’t give it to us all at once!

Learn how to make a fantasy map .

What’s the terrain in the whole country like? Draw it in.

Figure out the important places in your story. What is the capital city of Neiphour? What is the main throughway? Where is Jabesh traveling to? What little towns might he stop at along the way? Even include his favorite hideaway and his fishing hole. Include everything of importance.

Map out the distance between places. This way you won’t have Jabesh taking a two day trip to the city of Lit one day and a half-day trip the following week.

Not only will drawing a map of your world help you create the story’s setting, but it will also help both you and the reader envision little nuances to make it more realistic.

FAQs about story settings

Still have questions about what the setting of a story is, and how to craft a powerful one that hooks readers? You might just need to read more and practice writing settings on your own!

We get a lot of common questions on story settings, so we'll cover some of the most frequently asked questions on the topic.

What are the three types of setting?

The three types of setting are the elements of time, place, and environment (both physical and social). Each of these types contributes to building the setting of a story.

How do you find the setting of a story?

To find the setting of a story, you will have to read through the book or story, and identify sections where the time, place, and environment is being described.

It is easy to identify the setting of a story through detailed descriptions the author may include that tells the reader when and where the story is taking place. An expert author also incorporates elements of setting subtly for the reader, such as through dialogue.

How does setting affect the story?

Setting affects the story by contributing to the plot, character development, mood, and theme. It also affects the story by engaging the reader and helping them visualize the events and context in which the narrative is being told.

What makes a good setting?

A good setting is one that appropriately describes the time, place, and environment of the narrative. A good setting also helps to connect the plot to the characters, and builds the mood and theme appropriately.

Practice writing the setting of a story today! 

You’ve heard several tips and received a lot of information on how to write the setting of a story. I’ve told you how to create an engaging setting. Now, it’s time to practice!

If you need some inspiration to guide you, use this writing prompt generator to help think of things to write about. 

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Go to your desk, pull out your pen and paper, and begin mind mapping your setting. Write the place of your setting in the middle of the paper and circle it.

Now, set a timer for ten minutes. If that doesn’t end up being enough time, work longer.

Write everything you can think of about that setting. You’ll be surprised at how much you know! If your setting is fictitious, all the better. With these tips, and a little practice, you will master the art of setting in no time.

Do you have an idea for the setting of a story?

creative writing story setting

Related posts

How to write a book in 12 simple steps [free book template], how long does it take to write a book (2023 author guide), what is your book genre a guide for authors.

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What is a Setting? || Definition & Examples

"what is a setting": a literary guide for english students and teachers.

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What is a Setting? Transcript (English and Spanish Subtitles Available in Video . Click HERE for Spanish transcript )

By Raymond Malewitz , Oregon State University Associate Professor of American Literature

When we read a story or watch a movie, we usually focus our attention on the characters and the plot.  But we should also pay attention to a third important element of storytelling: the setting.  A setting is the time and place in which a story is told.

All stories have settings—even this one.  The setting of this video is a weird blank void, and you may not think that it influences the way that you understand this video’s content. But you can probably agree that you’d interpret the lesson differently if the setting were, say, this:


White House Setting

As this difference suggests, setting is much more than a mere backdrop for human action.  Just as we are shaped by the city, region, and country that surrounds us, characters in fiction are shaped by their own geographical circumstances.   And just as we are molded by the strange 21 st century time in which we live, characters in fiction are molded by their own strange historical moments, which influence what they think, how they speak, and how they act. Paying attention to setting—what it is and how it is described--can therefore bring us closer to the central themes , ideas, and conflicts of the stories we love.

Let me give you one example.  Sarah Orne Jewett’s 1886 story “The White Heron” is set in rural Maine, and Jewett’s description of the setting helps us to clarify the its central conflict.  About halfway through the story, the protagonist , Sylvia, climbs a tall tree to look for a heron’s nest.  Here’s how Jewett describes that moment:

     “Half a mile from home, at the farther edge of the woods, where the land was highest, a great pine-tree stood, the last of its generation. Whether it was left for a boundary mark, or for what reason, no one could say; the woodchoppers who had felled its mates were dead and gone long ago, and a whole forest of sturdy trees, pines and oaks and maples, had grown again. But the stately head of this old pine towered above them all and made a landmark for sea and shore miles and miles away. Sylvia knew it well.”


Setting The White Heron Jewett

Now, this conveniently placed tree obviously serves to advance the story’s plot.  Earlier in the story, Sylvia met a hunter from a big city who has traveled to this region to shoot a heron for his taxidermy collection, and he’s offered the girl a large sum of money to help him to find one. After she climbs the tree, Sylvia spots the heron’s hidden nest, which propels the plot forward to its climactic question—will she reveal the bird’s location to the hunter or not.

But the description of the tree also EXPANDS this individual story of a young girl and a hunter into the story of a more general theme of a tension between rural and urban areas in the United States.  By calling the old-growth pine-tree “the last of its generation,” Jewett depicts rural Maine as a site of resource extraction—in this case, timber extraction. The other old-growth trees in the area had been removed long ago—presumably to support of the development of eastern cities like the one the hunter calls his home. And this scarcity extends to the dwindling white heron populations in the area. The heron’s feathers had, in the late nineteenth century, been used in hats for fashionable big-city ladies, and the bird had been hunted to near extinction as a result.


Setting Woman's Hat

Thus what seems like a simple throwaway description of an old-growth tree in fact plays a central role in the understanding the significance of the decision that Sylvia must make later in the story, linking the individual story of a girl and a hunter with the larger history of that region of the United States.

Settings not only help to clarify a given story’s themes .  They can also help us to understand a character’s worldview through how they think about their surroundings.  As Sylvia’s thoughts on the tree suggest, she views her rural setting as a place of wondrous secrets, grandeur, and dignity.  This perspective stands in stark contrast to the hunter’s thoughts on the same setting, which Jewett reveals through a technique called “ free indirect discourse ” in an earlier passage. When the hunter sits down to dinner at Sylvia’s grandmother’s house, he thinks:

“It was a surprise to find so clean and comfortable a little dwelling in this New England wilderness. The young man had known the horrors of its most primitive housekeeping, and the dreary squalor of that level of society which does not rebel at the companionship of hens. This was the best thrift of an old-fashioned farmstead, though on such a small scale that it seemed like a hermitage. He listened eagerly to the old woman's quaint talk, he watched Sylvia's pale face and shining gray eyes with ever growing enthusiasm, and insisted that this was the best supper he had eaten for a month...”


Setting The White Heron Jewett II

While the hunter seems polite, his thoughts reveal a fairly condescending attitude towards what he calls the “primitive” and “dreary squalor” of the New England setting.  Because we associate this region with our protagonist, Sylvia, when the hunter disparages the region, we are encouraged to view his quest for the bird in a more negative light, aligning the bird’s life with Sylvia’s life in her setting.

As “The White Heron” suggests, students should do more than simply note place and time when they use the term “setting” in their essays.  Instead, they should consider the many ways in which place and time shape our understanding of the story’s characters, plot, and themes.

Interested in more video lessons? View the full series:

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