Setting Is an Important Element of Fiction

by Silvia Wan, Age 20, Australia


Setting plays a largely unobserved role in fiction but I believe it is an important element because as a writer, my story world must first feel real to me before I can convince others of its authenticity. Setting is an important element of fiction.

It’s easy to be bogged down by details and give paragraphs of padding, fluff or info-dumps which tend to make readers’ eyes glaze over. The trick is to describe the way your character interacts with her environment so you paint a more vivid description of her and her surroundings at the same time.

For example, let’s say we have a character, a woman, who is walking down a street.

In one scenario, a sharply dressed woman swans past art galleries and sidewalk cafés. The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans lingers in the air but as she ate a dish of raw oysters on the half shell for lunch, she’s satiated. Instead, her attention is snapped up by a boutique and she nips inside. She picks up a designer skirt with a floral pattern and pays for it without looking at the price tag.

In another scenario, the woman wears a baggy orange jumper which clashes horribly with her auburn hair. But she doesn’t notice because she’s hurrying down the street, clutching her math textbook and glancing at her hand-me-down watch every ten seconds. Her stomach rumbles because she skipped breakfast so she ducks into the little bakery opposite the university and fumbles for coins to pay for her croissant.

In the first scenario, readers gather she is a sophisticated and well-off woman in a fancy city such as Milan or Paris, yet in the second scenario, they think she’s a clumsy and broke university student.

Setting can be a powerful tool, so I encourage writers to use it to the best of their ability in their fiction.


Silvia Wan is a 20 year old writer from Australia. She says, “My goal is to become an ecologist and an author, perhaps a mix of the two!” Read Sivia’s blog.



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