Plain Field in Front of Mountain Peak

Writing a novel is like driving a car, only…

The car is low on fuel, it has dodgy steering, and you’re controlling it through the iciness of the Antarctic. Oh, and it has no wheels…

Always Used

Writers use settings continuously, even when they’re not imperative to the scene in general. Whether deliberately or subconsciously, world-building and scene description fulfil a number of objectives.

But have you ever thought about how you can get a little more explorative with your scene descriptions?

Well luckily for you, we have.

This article will provide you with a list of practical scenarios. Each point will go into a little detail about how to use the scene description and what sorts of effects that has on the reader.

Aren’t you lucky to have such great friends?


The most obvious use of setting is to craft an atmosphere that reflects the point of the scene, such as tension, joy, or reflection. When creating tension, the surroundings reflect a sense of urgency, fear, or agitation.

For example, in the opening chapter of ‘Great Expectations’, Dickens uses the backdrop of the graveyard to give his protagonist a tragic history, but also to create the feeling of fear in his bleak description of the surrounding marshes.


Either the setting itself or certain objects within it can be used to prompt flashbacks or reflective moments. These allow your reader more insight into a character’s personality, history, or to oppose or add to their personal conflict. This is also useful when foreshadowing future scenes.

These tend to be more abstract and metaphorical by nature, but can involve scenes of tension-building nature too – they’re particularly effective when jumping straight into the next scene involving conflict, which leads nicely into the last point.


The source of conflict usually comes primarily from an antagonist. However, the place in which your character finds themselves can also add to or become the sole source.
For instance, physical obstacles within the environment can be effective, such as a fallen tree across the only road out of town during an alien attack, or a locked door that prevents escape.

Surroundings can also emphasise character traits by association. In Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’, the protagonist is introduced giving an important presentation on symbolism within cultural art as a Harvard Professor. This sets the tone for a major aspect of that particular character’s personality throughout the book, whether the reader had read the previous novels or not.

Now Go Explore

These are just a few ways you can think about using settings to boost your plot. Implement them as necessary and explore with them in your own way. Got any questions about this topic? Leave them down below. We’ll be sure to get back to you.

Oh, and remember:

Happy writing, folks!

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