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Steps to Success » Story Writing

Creating a Story Setting

Setting – the place and time in which the story takes place – is a vital element in creative writing. A well-crafted setting builds a vivid picture in readers’ minds, helping them feel as if they are in the story. Setting also influences the atmosphere, for example, in this extract from The Hobbit, in which JRR Tolkien establishes a cosy, lighthearted feeling with this description: 

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Choosing a story setting

As the setting provides a stage for the action of the story to happen, it should fit with the plot and the characters. These will determine whether the setting is a real or imagined place, for example. If your character is a teenager struggling with peer pressure, the story can be set in 21st century Hong Kong. On the other hand, an ancient kingdom with mythical creatures would be more suitable for a story in which a teenager is struggling to take her rightful place as queen of a kingdom in turmoil.

Describing a story setting

Before getting into the actual writing, it is always useful to do some research. One way is to look up pictures and videos of places that resemble the setting you have in mind. If your main character is king, where does he live exactly? A medieval European castle is very different from a Chinese imperial palace.

It is also important to use sensory descriptions for your setting. New writers sometimes focus on sight and forget about the other senses. What sounds can be heard in the forest at night? How does the town smell in the early morning? Is there a soft breeze or a biting wind? Using all five senses helps create a realistic and immersive setting for the reader.


Essentially, the setting brings the story world in your mind to life. So, pick up a pen and start writing! Join other budding writers on our popular Love to Write course.