Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Quick Tips: How to Brainstorm & Research the Setting For Your Novel

The setting of a story should be treated with much attention as if it were a character in itself. Think of your favorite book--how would the plot differ if it were set in snowy mountains? Or in a dry desert? When a writer accurately portrays a believable setting for their novel, the reader becomes sucked into the story. This should be done in a way so that the story would not be the same if it were set in another location.

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For example: The setting is a crucial element in the movie The Titanic. It would be impossible to set that story in another location; the entire plot would unravel. People fall in love with books that present well-developed settings and story worlds. What would The Chronicles of Narnia be without Narnia? Or Anne of Green Gables without Green Gables? This is why us writers should never rush the process of brainstorming a setting.

So, when choosing a setting, ask yourself...

  • What is the mood and theme of this story? What kind of setting—a small town, big city, another planet, etc.—would best portray this?
  • How will the setting affect the plot of the story?
  • Will I use a real location or invent one?
  • What places—including my hometown—am I familiar with? Out of those, which one am I most passionate about?
  • How can I weave symbolism into this setting?
  • How does the setting influence who my protagonist is and what is his/her attitude toward this location?

Then, once you have chosen your setting, it's time to collect as much information as you can about this place--even if you've invented it. You should know it just as well as your characters do.  

Here's how you can research your setting: 

  • Take a research trip (if feasible).
  • Watch YouTube videos. Many times, people will give a “virtual tour” of a certain place. As you watch, pay close attention to the sights and sounds.
  • Research the location and its history through various online resources. (Keep in mind, however, that some websites, such as Wikipedia, may not provide 100% accurate information.)
  • Read books about the location, including memoirs.
  • Read the online newspaper of the location.
  • Find pictures via Pinterest. (Make sure to pin them to your storyboard as well!)
  • Interview people who have a connection to the location.
  • Research the city through This website allows you to explore a location and discover its amenities, housing and neighborhoods, population, economics, crime, weather, etc. It will even compare these results with another location as well.
  • Take advantage of Google Earth and its street view feature.

When researching (or inventing!) your setting, take note of the following:

  • What unique elements can contribute toward the personality of my setting? Have you chosen/invented a town that is popular for its rolling hills? Are there willow trees that form a canopy over a certain street? Farm animals held behind fences? (Cough ... Unwritten Melody reference.) ;) 
  • How do the locals speak? What is their dialect and popular slang?
  • Where is the place located geographically?
  • What is the climate in every season?
  • What is the history of the location, and how has it shaped the setting into what it is today?
  • What is the most popular religion? (For instance, have you chosen a town that's located in the Bible belt of the US?)
  • What are the socioeconomics?
  • What is the atmosphere? Is it a laid back town in the south, where people are accustomed to a slow-paced lifestyle--or does it take place within the hustle and bustle of NYC?
  • What is the popular fashion and hairstyles?
  • Where do people shop for food, coffee, groceries, clothes, ice cream, etc.?
  • What are the significant landmarks and parks?
  • Where do the teenagers hangout?
  • What kind of animals can be found in the location? Plants? Insects?
  • If it’s a small town, what big city is it located near?
  • What are the popular street names?


The setting of a story should be treated as if it were another character, so make sure to research it beforehand. 

Then, when you begin to write, highlight on the specific details that will breathe life into your setting. However, make sure that this is presented through the eyes of your POV (Point of View) character. 

Through proper developing and portraying your setting, you will give your readers the opportunity to become transported into the story’s location . . . and they’ll never once have to leave the comfort of their own home. ;) 

~ ~ ~ 

What's your favorite way to brainstorm and research the setting for your books? 


Quick Tips: How to Brainstorm & Research the Setting For Your Novel @TessaEmilyHall #amwriting #writingtips

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  1. Hey, it looks great! On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.
    Most people will never be great in #Style, BUT YOU ARE ;-).

    Let me share something with you! Did you know that you can print favorite photos of your work and hang them on the wall as canvas prints? Bring your ideas into real life, with an option to print even large canvas prints.

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  2. I only feel comfortable using geographic locations I have visited. I feel like I can't really know a location unless I walk it.

  3. Brainstorming is just the initial step of generating ideas. Mind maps gives a meaningful picture to brainstorming. Mind mapping helps in many situations. It can be used for work, for organizing a personal or family schedule, for setting your life goals and of course, you can also do a case study analysis using mind maps. Find these mind map examples to be used freely.


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