When writing a fantasy story – for kids and adults alike – the setting is key. Get it right and your story will spread its wings and transport your readers to a place they will never want to leave.
So how do you create the perfect setting for your story?
First off, make it intriguing! Think – Westeros, Hogwarts, Middle-Earth, Panem, Narnia. None of these are places you’re likely to stumble across in your neighbourhood, but each one has become somewhere so “believable”, so lifelike, that we can’t help but feel like we’ve been there. So, imagine a setting that intrigues you, somewhere you’ve never been that you’d love to explore.
Now, give it life! Create its history. Capture its geography. Fill it with plants and creatures and people and let them flourish – or not, as the case may be. Decide how your setting affects the way people live their lives – what societies they form, how they travel, what resources they have, what their culture and traditions look like, how they communicate and much much more. Many call this stage of story development world-building, and the more effort you put into creating a setting full of fascinating details, the more life you will breathe into your world.
Next, consider how you will present your setting. Use your senses and all three levels of perspective – background, mid-ground and foreground – to describe your setting. The details matter and they will paint a clearer picture for your readers.
Finally, see what opportunities for conflict your setting can impose on your characters. Take advantage of the hidden nooks and crannies of a castle, the wide open battlefield or the storm ridden coast of treacherous rocks and have your characters solve conflicts that will keep your story moving and your characters growing!
The details of your setting may seem insignificant compared to the plot and characters of your story, but they aren’t. They are the stage your characters will act on and react with. Knowing and showing these details will enhance your story and transport your readers into your world far more effectively than anything else you do. So go and create an amazing setting, fill it with life and conflict and then present it to the world!