Setting - A Force In Your Story
Setting is like a character in your story that has no dialogue. Setting not only grounds your characters and your readers, setting interacts with characters to enhance your story. Setting is what makes readers feel like they are there.
Beginning writers often overlook the depth that setting adds to a story. Setting embellishes the storyline and characters.
Know Your Setting
First, know your setting. Don’t guess. Even if your setting is your hometown, you may need to do research. Remember, 80% of research never enters your story, but you, the writer, know the details.
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Elements of Setting
As an author you have many ways to include setting in your story because setting includes a variety of elements. You can use them all to give readers a sense of where your characters are in place and time.
Although you may think setting is the place where the story takes place, be sure to include all the elements of setting in your story. You’ll give your readers a sense of where your characters are and how they move through the elements of setting to achieve their goal.
These are main attributes of setting to color your story. Depending on your story other setting details such as population density or ancestral values from another culture can enrich your story even more.
How to Integrate Setting in Your Story
Setting is just about anything in the space-time continuum of your story. With so many details at hand, the choice for writers is how and where to add those setting details in the story.
Long, detailed descriptions are not the way to go. They slow down the story. Your goal is to keep readers reading. The more you integrate setting into the story, the less likely your reader will notice and skip.
Slips, falls, sneezes, social faux pas in unfamiliar culture or place, terrifying heights, dark caves, tornadoes, storms, rough waves, earthquake, menacing clouds. Your setting will have enough detail to add to every scene.
One caveat, be careful with extra detail that feels unnatural. Your heroine may teeter on the top of a 40-story building. It’s much more likely she will think 40 stories than 404 feet. Unless your have established your character as a compulsive number freak, an exact measurement like 404 feet will sound unnatural.
Zara Altair writes mysteries set in ancient Italy. Her course for beginning writers Write A Killer Mystery is coming soon. Get on the notification list.
Photo by Joakim Honkasalo on Unsplash
A Setting in Time
At the time of Argolicus Rome was neither the capital city of Italy nor the center of the Roman Empire. King Theoderic, ruled Italy from the north of Italy in Ravenna and the Roman Empire was centered in Constantinople.
In The Roman Heir Argolicus and Nikolaos leave Rome to begin his retirement in southern Italy. As he leaves, Boethius ask Argolicus to deliver a gift to a young Roman in Ostia. Once the major port for good coming to Rome, at the time of the story Ostia is mainly a country seaside retreat for Romans. The great port is silting and reedy marshlands have replaced much of the port.
Archaeological excavations give us a hint of what the city was like in its prime.
But imagination and a review of geography give us a better feel of Ostia at the time of Argolicus.
When Argolicus arrives to deliver the gift, he finds that the youth, Philo, discovered the body of his murdered father just hours ago. The paterfamilias was a shipping magnate with a large house in Ostia, but his wealth comes from across the river Tiber at the major shipping port called Portus.
Portus the Seat of Commerce
The man made port fed by a canal built by Trajan, still serves the shipping needs for Rome and the surrounding area of Italy when Argolicus arrives. In the north, the port of Classe, just several kilometers from Ravenna, serves the King’s city. But major supplies for the rest of Italy still came through Portus.
The port was an architectural and engineering feat designed is an octagon. The flat sides maximized space for ships to dock and goods to be loaded and unloaded. Huge storage warehouses kept the goods for distribution throughout Italy.
Ostia and Portus are the backdrop for this mystery of a savage murder where emotions run deep behind the trappings of wealth.
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Zara Altair, Author
The puzzle of politics, the mystery of murder in ancient Italy. After Rome, before the Middle Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.