Describing Setting

Using Sensory Details

Use sensory details to create a vivid, immersive setting. These are descriptions that appeal to the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.

For example, instead of just saying “It was a sunny day at the beach,” you could write, “The sun blazed in the clear blue sky, warming the golden sand. The salty sea air filled my nostrils, and the distant sound of waves crashing against the shore echoed in my ears.”

As you describe a setting, imagine you’re there and try to capture all the sensory details you would experience.

Setting and Mood, Theme or Symbolism

The setting can contribute to the mood, theme or symbolism of the story. 

  • Setting and Mood – The setting of a story can greatly influence the mood, or emotional atmosphere, that a reader experiences. A dark, stormy night can create a mood of tension, suspense, or fear, setting the stage for a mystery or horror story. 
  • Setting and Theme – The setting can also reinforce or highlight the theme of a story. A bustling city full of diverse people and opportunities might underscore themes of ambition, change or the human experience in a modern world. 
  • Setting and Symbolism – Sometimes, the setting can serve as a symbol, representing a concept or idea that’s significant to the story. A decaying mansion might symbolise the downfall of a once-great family or the fading of old societal norms. 

Think about what mood, theme or symbolism you want to convey, and choose a setting that helps to express this.

Setting Influencing Character Behaviour and Plot

The setting can influence character behaviour and plot development. Characters living in a harsh, survivalist environment might be tough and resourceful. A story set in a school might involve plots about friendship, rivalry or academic pressure.

Consider how your setting shapes your characters and their actions, as well as the events of your story.

Language and Terminology for Different Settings

When writing about a specific setting, it’s important to use language and terminology that accurately and vividly convey that environment. This not only helps to create a more immersive experience for the reader, but it also adds authenticity to your writing.

For example, if your story is set on a sailing ship, you would want to use nautical terms such as “starboard,” “port,” “bow,” and “stern.” If your story is set in a hospital, you would use medical terminology. Research your setting to ensure you’re using appropriate and accurate language and terminology.