We need to convey a sense of setting in our short stories, which is a tall order, because of the length of the story. Hehe, see what I did there? We need to make our writing to work harder. We need it to do “double-duty”.
We need to get the following setting details across:
- Physical space: where are your characters? A room, a bus or a space craft?
- When: Is the story set in the past, present or future?
- Era: What are they wearing and driving and eating?
- Time frame: Is it morning or evening? Is it Christmas?
- Weather: Is it hot or cold, wet or dry?
- Culture: Cultural differences and deviations?
- Geography: A city, a mountain, a river or a volcano? Which continent are they on?
Yikes, right? You can find a more detailed post here: 7 Simple Things To Remember About Setting But, how can we convey this much with a limited word count?
Five Ways To Sneak Setting Into Short Stories
- You don’t need it all: Decide what is important. In a single scene or short story, you may not need to convey all of this. Figure out what is needed for your story.
- The senses: You can create a sense of space by using the senses. The impression of heat, a smell that reminds us childhood, the hint of a hot curry. By using the senses, you are using your readers own experiences to tell your story and to create the scene.
- Dialogue: How can you use dialogue? By using the phrase: “Please pass the salt?” We can tell that the character is at a table. Now we can start asking questions. Is it at home or a restaurant? How can we add information to complete the picture?
- Body language and action: Make you characters do stuff. They must pick up objects, stub their toes, hum a favourite tune or punch a wall. This tells us more about the setting than we can imagine. Make them climb that mountain.
- Description: This is the easiest way to convey setting, but it can take its toll on your word count. Make sure that you use only what is required. Often, we underestimate our readers and want to overcompensate.
by Mia Botha
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