I suppose it’s obvious…be specific in what your describe…use words to paint pictures…make every location special, even when a location is mundane.
Yet, difficult to put into practice.
Some creative writing instructors stress that less is best when it comes to scene setting, and there may be some truth to this. Overwriting – in particular, relying on adjectives and adverbs, or repeating a point to add emphasis — spoils rather than helps the writing. In some cases, the superfluous details and writing style will prevent the reader from getting to the story.
And yet, having a style that evokes atmosphere and immediacy is crucial to the story. I think someone once likened scene setting to the ingredient that causes a cake to rise whilst baking. No ingredient, a flat cake.
When I read the revised version of my second novel recently, a psychological thriller set in the north of England, I felt the opening quarter had improved in many ways, allowing for atmosphere and unfolding tension – exactly what I wanted. Later sections of the story, however, seemed to fall flat again.
I think the key to the problem lies in the scene setting itself. Up to now, it’s been pretty vague. A cottage in a village (no real description). A lake on a hill (no name). Playing fields at the bottom of the hill (could be anywhere).
I’ve changed the cottage to an old factory converted into apartments on glass balconies. This, I feel, will allow the atmosphere to develop. I’m enjoying placing my central character in situations that unsettle him – for instance, when he returns to The Factory with his young son on his second day there, he thinks someone’s watching them from the top balcony.
I’ve also added names to the hill and reservoir to make them distinct.
Early days, but I’m enjoying the revision.