Setting, Novel Structure, and Revising Your First Draft

I once read a book where I didn’t skim any of the setting description. Afterward, I wondered why. I admit, I’m impatient with too much description. To learn what captured me, I re-read the book and highlighted every sentence that described the setting. What I realized was the author only described things or places that were relevant to the plot.

That was the moment I went on a mission to learn everything I could about setting and how to use it to make my novels more enjoyable.

Most writers know setting creates the story world. But in the context of novel structure, it can do so much more for you.


Once you’ve determined the setting for each scene, ask yourself if the setting is the best place for emotional impact. This one little question helps you:

  • increase or decrease conflict
  • increase or decrease tension
  • set the mood
  • show characterization

That’s a lot for a setting to do for you, but thinking about setting in terms of emotional impact will wake up your creativity. Let us give you an example.

Suppose you have a character who is afraid of the dark. Imagine the character is about to have a confrontation with an employee. If the character feels confident being in his/her own office and you want the character to be in a position of strength, then use the office as a setting.

If you want the character to feel vulnerable during the confrontation, try locating him/her outside, at night, in an isolated parking lot. And make it very dark. The streetlight is broken. There is no moon. Maybe it’s windy, so a cry for help won’t be heard.

Do you see the difference? The setting can help you bring out emotion in the scene by showing conflict, tension, mood, and characterization. You decide what emotion you want the reader to feel, then decide how the setting can help bring forward that emotion.

If you think the setting is not the best place for emotional impact, it’s time for a rewrite. Set the scene where you can elicit strong emotions, then rewrite the scene in that location.

This is only the beginning of how setting used properly within the structure of your novel can help you rewrite a novel that readers will love.

How will Fictionary help with setting

You can see in the screenshot above that Fictionary will get you thinking about different elements of setting and how they fit into the structure of your novel.

Fictionary will guide you through your manuscript, illustrating weak areas in plot, character, or setting that will lead you to make changes to your novel. With a guided approach, you’ll know which areas of your manuscript you’ve addressed and which you haven’t. This will speed up your rewriting process by enabling you to focus only on areas that need revision.

Fictionary will save you money on future editing. If an editor works on your novel before you’ve finished addressing structural issues, the editor will spend time on changes you could have already made. By doing this work yourself, you’ll learn how to write better fiction and you’ll receive higher quality comments from an editor.

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and turn your draft into a story readers love?

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