Sunday, March 7, 2010

The “Triple S” in Writing a Good Setting of a Story

In writing a good setting of the story, we only need to remember the “Triple S”: suitability, senses and showing. The first “S” is suitability. This means that we must write our setting logically, or should be suitable and agreeable to the story. For example, if your story is about a man who is overworked or stressed, it is unsuitable to set the story to a peaceful and isolated town. Rather, you might set the story in a hustle and busy city. Or your story is about a woman who needs time for reflection, then your character’s thought would sound “louder” if you set the story in a quite church or a silent meadow. In addition, we must be aware that certain events can only happen in certain places. Obviously, you cannot write about two lovers playing with snow on Christmas in a tropical country like the Philippines.

The second “S” is the senses. Using our five senses in describing the setting of a story will make the readers experience what they are reading. Sensory descriptions can also make the setting vivid and clear. For example, instead of merely writing “In the sea”, try to write specific details like the color, the sound , smell, texture, and many other descriptions that will make the setting achieved a lively appeal to the readers. Because readers tend to generalize from sensory details they can imagine, try to select specific details that will enhance and make the readers’ experience more satisfying. If you write “spoon smeared in a pancake batter,” a reader will likely to picture a wooden spoon, a thick golden batter in a large bowl, a bag of flour, and scattered eggshells in a large kitchen table with morning sunrays passing through the half-open window. In addition, if you have a hard time describing a certain place, you can also use figures of speech like similes and metaphors.

Finally, the last “S” stands for showing. Showing means letting the characters dramatize or experience the setting of the story. For instance, instead of saying, “It was very dark inside”, we could say, “We needed flashlights to find our way”. “It was far from any place” could be changed to, “We travelled four days from the nearest town to reach this place.” Another way to “show” the setting is by allowing the characters describe the details of a place through dialogue. This will help the readers feel an emotional connection between the character and the place. In general, showing is a smart way in writing a good setting of the story since it gives the readers the chance to have their own interpretation and conclusion of what they are reading.

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