For this weeks post on my writing life I have decided to continue with the theme of planning a story and today we are focusing on settings. I’ll be using my experience of creating the main setting for my novel The Revelation Academy to give you some tips for creating your own settings. To clarify, this isn’t a post about worldbuilding in general, we are focusing on individual settings. To cover worldbuilding will take a whole series (idea?).
The setting I will be using as an example is the one most seen in my story, the Academy itself. The Academy is the main setting throughout the story and has become more and more complex throughout my drafts. It began as a simple idea, a school for my characters to attend. I always knew there would be mysteries within the building but I didn’t put much thought to style, layout or history. That changed the more I wrote, by the end of the first draft I have a very rough sketched layout, expanding the Academy three-fold. Now I am on draft three I have the layout mostly pinned down, the style figured out and I am working on the history.
When I was in the initial planning stages of the novel I didn’t actually put any effort into planning the settings aside from a few minor details. I ended up figuring it all out as I went. I think this was a mistake, I found myself wandering through the story at points where a developed setting would have helped immensely.
During the writing process I randomly came up with odd details about the Academy, writing them down on scraps of paper that I later pinned together. After my first draft was finished I resolved to sitting down and figure out what was going on with my setting. I drew a very rough sketch of the Academy’s layout and started to layer on the details of each part.
I have a complex of buildings that make up the Academy, each with its own history and ghost stories. Each building was put up at different stages in the Academy’s development so they each have different styles. I have a page in my notebook for TRA for each building, to plan out each buildings history and quirks. Also what each building is currently used for during the story. These pages have helped already during my current draft, and I’ve only just got my characters to the Academy!
So what are my tips for creating settings?
1. Don’t leave it till the last minute to plan out your settings, especially the one you will spend the most time in!
2. Sketch a layout. It doesn’t matter how pretty it is. My drawing is atrocious and I managed a basic layout.
3. Keep your notes in one place. I’m sure I’ve lost one or two scraps of paper along the way, having all my notes in one notebook makes it so much easier!
4. Quiz your settings like you would a character. Get to know the history of your settings, you never know how it could affect your story later on.
5. Don’t focus on the settings you will barely use. Put most of your energy into your main settings, especially if one setting is used for the bulk of your story.
Bonus tip. Relax, have fun with it!