Setting is the time, place and situation in which the story occurs.
Description is the material and words devoted to fleshing out that time and place. This provides the physical context and reality for the story. Setting is not ornamental it is integral nothing happens at nowhere.
This is something I learnt at the advanced writers workshop at Goa, and kind of forgotten it. Creating setting that involves
- Where does my story take place?
- When does it take place, year, time and those detailing.
- What’s the weather like.
- What is the social environment?
- What is landscape both geographic and emotional?
- What other relevant detailing is needed.
We were told start with gross and bring it down to specific location, people living there their attitude.
The description has to be rather vivid, that is precisely what bring J.K. Rowling’s so much of credibility. It meant using the five sense, what did it look like what were the smells, was there a physical feel, what were the sounds, was there a taste in mouth. This graphic really brings the novel alive.
The point is to show, for example… the girls were excited is a flat presentation.
If I were to say the same with, “high pitched screams, and awkward giggles filled the air, as the girls clutched each other’s hand hearts pounding loud enough to heard, eyes shining with anticipation and wonder, parched throats leading t the tongue grazing on the dried lips” brings the excitement alive.
The challenge however is not letting the description distract the story or the narrative. One way of doing it is narrating the description through the eyes of the character.
Sometimes it helps to describe the scene through the moods of the characters.
“Description begins with the writers imagination and finishes with the readers”~ Stephen King on writing a Memoir of the craft.
“In the detective story, as in its mirror image, the Quest for the Grail, maps (the ritual of space) and timetables (the ritual of time) are desirable. Nature should reflect its human inhabitants, i.e., it should be the Great Good Place; for the more Eden-like it is, the greater the contradiction of murder. The country is preferable to the town, a well-to-do neighbourhood (but not too well-to-do-or there will be a suspicion of ill-gotten gains) better than a slum. The corpse must shock not only because it is a corpse but also because, even for a corpse, it is shockingly out of place, as when a dog makes a mess on a drawing room carpet.”
(The guilty vicarage: Notes on the detective story, by an addict, Harper’s Magazine, May 1948)”
― W.H. Auden