How to Think of a Setting for a Story

So you need to set your story. Perhaps you're still staring at a completely blank page or you have your characters and plot down to a 'T'. Either way, choosing the right setting for your story can change a good storyline into a masterpiece. Here's just how to nail it!


  1. Image titled Plan a Trip to Paris Step 16
    Name the location
    • Be authentic in the use of place names if using a real location.
    • Make sure that you can spell it correctly.
    • Decide whether to use the name of the country in the language you are writing in (e.g. Ireland) or by the name of the country in the language that the characters would speak (e.g. native Irish speakers might say √Čire).
    • If you have not yourself lived there, research the name used by people actually living in the same place as your fictional character. Remember that several names can refer to the same place and different names may have been in common usage in different eras. e.g. The Republic of Ireland was sometimes still called the Free State by Unionists after it became a republic as a derogatory term.
    • Decide whether your made-up place name should sound realistic or not. If it should, ask someone from the broader setting (e.g. if you're setting a story in Russia, ask a Russian or Eastern European) if the name looks believable. It may not be as easy as you thought. If not, Google the name and see whether similar soundings place names that you were not aware of crop up, possibly with unhelpful associations. You may or may not wish to change the name if this is the case.
    • Anagrams are a clever way to name an area. For instance, an area rich in gold could be called Dlog.
  2. Image titled Create a Language Step 17
    Choose your community.
    • Decide on a language. This may or may not be one that your character understands.
    • Learn some sayings, proverbs, pet names, exclamations or everyday terms in any secondary language in your story. Spinning them through the dialogue will enrich it and vastly improve the authenticity of the piece. If you hope to publish the story, double check the spelling and grammar.
    • Creating your own language is a brave move which may well pay off. However, especially if you are creating several sentences, make sure to keep grammar, vocabulary and syntax consistent. It may be worthwhile to borrow from another language your readers would not be familiar with. Think of it as teamwork.
    • Are the people who live there friendly and welcoming or hostile and territorial? Are they kind or cruel? A community of people will usually conform to certain norms to the eyes of an outsider.
    • What are popular political opinions? Your story may not deal with these issues in great detail but small indications will add to the atmosphere and authenticity of the entire piece.
  3. Image titled Survive a War Step 16
    Figure out the politics.
    • Decide on the ruling power. Is there a monarch? Is there a democracy? Is corruption rife? What is the public opinion on the head of the country?
    • What are common values in the area? The conservatism or liberalism in a community will affect outcomes to any incidents in the story. If your storyline is dependent on a certain outcome, the location had better suit it.
  4. Image titled Describe the Setting in a Story Step 2
    Bring your setting alive with description.
    • Use adjectives. Adjectives are describing words. They expand on a noun. e.g. "Kelly's hair was ruby.", "Mom's car was rather colossal.", "Paris' Eiffel Tower was spotless."
    • Use a thesaurus to find words that are slightly unusual and have more impact than the rather bland big, nice, funny etc.
  5. Image titled Start a Girl Group Step 5
    Rewrite history. The history of a place will have an impact on the people. Ask yourself the following questions:
    • What happened during the 20th century?
    • Was there a battle? Who won? Who lost?
    • Find the language and terms that were in common usage at the time at which your story was set.
    • Learn about the popular opinions and politics of the time.


  • Make it your own.


  • Don't write about anything inappropriate

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Categories: Better Writing