Writing Tips From A Ghostwriter – Developing Setting In The Story

Writing Tips From A Ghostwriter

Consider these writing tips when you’re in the process of developing your story. These considerations and the others you’ll find here provide valuable insights into writing a compelling story!

How to successfully use setting in your story.

All too often in story, setting comes as an afterthought. This is unfortunate because a unique, well designed setting offers rich opportunities to increase the stakes and aggravate character journey. On the other hand an answer to “where” can serve as a means of enabling that character’s journey.

Think of Breaking Bad. Perhaps it’s an old example but once again it applies.

The desert southwest of New Mexico is evocative of lawlessness. The cowboy myth is engrained in our storytelling fabric. When a story opens on a tumbleweed, a viewer feels as though anything is possible.

The wide open spaces offer Walter and Jessie room to do their dirty work. Through the first few seasons, we find the awkward business partners working in their Winnebago, parked on a dusty desert road.

Look at this way and the wide open space enables Walter. If the story were set in a bigger city (their lab surrounded by crowds of nosy neighbors) White’s struggle could be less compelling. Walter would be just as interesting as a human being but Albuquerque ups the stakes around his ascent considerably.

The desert also allows the burgeoning conflict between Jessie and Walter to manifest in unique ways. Often the two men shout at the top of their lungs at one another. Could they in an suburban setting? Frequently we find Walter and Jessie reaching the heat of a conflict, only to step out of the Winnebago and have everything out, right there in the open air.

As you can begin to see, New Mexico was not random. The writers chose it.

Other writing tips involve examining the ways in which setting limits the characters. For example, the desert southwest serves to inhibit Walter White as well. Albuquerque is hot. A hostile climate means if something goes wrong (and it does go wrong) the environment can threaten their lives. When the drug lab Winnebago breaks down on the side of the road one series of problems presents, but that same camper broken down on the side of a scorching hot desert highway amps that up considerably.

Another way that setting inhibits Walter is its close proximity to the Mexican border. This gives the writer access to a different breed of drug dealing antagonist that is only a short drive away from our hero’s door. It doesn’t take much engineering to introduce bad guys like Tuco and Hector Salamanca to the story.

Setting is not strictly city, state and town. Micro settings exist within the larger setting. I keep coming back to the drug lab Winnebago. Why? It is unforgettable. The writers could have given their characters access to a safe house, but the Winnebago as a memorable micro-setting makes the story more iconic.

On the surface, setting may not seem critical. Some writers set it up like a plain white curtain backdrop. The assumption there is that basic allows the characters to shine through.

This is short sighted.

Think about setting in a deeper way. Challenge setting to become its own character. Some stories simply must take place in a certain location. You can’t tell a New York crime story without New York.

Whenever you can though, look at ways to enhance and diversify a story setting. Take a step back from the characters and their situation. Ask the simple question of where does this take place?

How can a few twists on setting create memorable scenes and unexpected opportunities? The answer to this may be the difference between a story that works well and a story that your reader can’t put down.

I hope these writing tips help you on your journey to completing your story! If you’ve never considered working with a professional ghostwriter, now might be the time. Let’s talk about how I can help you turn your dreams of a published book into reality.

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Erick Mertz is a Portland, Oregon based freelance writer. He works as an assignment ghostwriter for clients in fiction, non-fiction and screenwriting. He lives in Woodstock with his wife, Lisa, his dog Boris and two cats.

Erick MertzWriting Tips From A Ghostwriter – Developing Setting In The Story

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