The Vanishing Setting

I came across this blog post recently and I agree with the sentiment: less skilled writers often don’t let the setting come through in their story.

Because we can’t see the setting, we also can’t visualize the characters’ interaction with the setting. How are they moving within this space? Are they both sitting down? Is Annie sitting while Marjolaine stands? Or is Annie scooping papers from the printer as she rushes to leave on assignment? Not only does this scene give the reader nothing but white walls, it also turns the characters into talking heads.

The author of the post does a good job of showing the difference between a scene that is a talking-heads conversation with no setting at all, and a fully-fleshed-out scene where actual characters are conversing. I agree with her completely on her points.

But the problem that I find with a lot of writers isn’t that they don’t provide any setting, but that the setting is remarked upon, then forgotten. Writers seem to love to paint their detailed picture of the setting, the colours, the weather, and then, the first paragraph of the chapter or scene complete, description is conveniently shelved.

If you want to put characters in a setting and have them move around there, that’s the way to do it. If you want them to actually inhabit their world, then you need to make it part of every scene, and have them act like it’s there.


  1. So true Matt, I agree that you need “to make it (setting) a part of every scene“ to avoid the talking-head type of text or surprises like when someone rolls over in bed when you had no idea the character was even in bed.

Leave a Comment

NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.