Setting Descriptions

Ciao, amici. Today’s post is a continuation of the Story Bible series. So far, we’ve had an overview and discussed the series premise and character sheets. Today, we’ll cover settings.

Setting Sheet
If you thought the character sheet was easy, you’ll love this one. It’s even simpler. And, if you aren’t creating brand new worlds (like a sci-fi or fantasy author might), you have even fewer fields to fill out. (Or, if you have OCD tendencies like me, you’ll fill them out anyway, but it’ll only take a few seconds.)

If you did an extensive and exhaustive job of describing the story world in the series premise section, you’ll already have a head start on completing this sheet.

I created a simple table in Word. If you’d like to download it (to use as-is or change it to suit your needs), just click on the graphic.

The first row is the easiest to fill out. It’s just the world name and a brief description. Most of the time that would just be Earth and we know where and what that is. But what if it’s Oz or Narnia or Tatooine? Then you want to describe the climate or the location in which galaxy or that you get there by going through a wardrobe or over a rainbow. You get the idea.

The second is location, and again, less work needs to be done here if this is a real location. If I added Vandergrift, PA, USA for one of my cities (where I was born and raised), I wouldn’t need to add much description. I know the place like the back of my hand. But if I made up a city or am using a city I don’t visit frequently, I might need to jot down a few notes, like the turn to the house is at the corner of Fifth and Main, or the grocery story is a converted barn with peeling red paint or Raccoon Creek divides the town.

From here on, I have slots for buildings (house, church, work, store, etc.). I name the building and have a cell to describe it. Beneath that, I have rows for rooms within the respective buildings. You don’t need to be elaborate here. But it’s nice to have this to remember if the house is brick or siding, if the church is stone or stucco. This allows you to keep track of if the walls are papered or painted or paneled. Are the floors carpet, tile, or hard wood? Furniture style, artwork. Clean or dirty, cluttered or tidy. Get as detailed as you like. And if you use a Chekhov’s gun device in your story, definitely include a description of it in the room it was found it.

This is probably the easiest sheet to fill out, but it can become the most important. Look at a series like Harry Potter. The setting was practically a character itself.

The more books you have in a series, the more locations you’re likely to have. And places have so many details to consider. It’s easy to mess up if you aren’t careful.

Next time, we’ll discuss a series outline.

Staci Troilo Bio

36 thoughts on “Setting Descriptions

  1. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  2. Good point to write this down. I try to keep these details in my head, but it can get confusing. I just had my blue drapes become red plaid drapes. So time to fix that and make a note. Thanks, Staci.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d never remember everything if I couldn’t write it down. I used to have excellent recall, but I think now my head is just packed with useless stuff, so there’s no room for other things. Thank God I can keep a record somewhere!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t tried setting sheets yet, but I like the looks of them and may give them a try on my new WIP. I did a rough hand sketch of the town on tablet paper by hand, but I have several buildings I need to keep track of. Setting sheets would make that easy.

    Once—for a book that I never finished—I made a floor plan of the main house on my computer. I didn’t have the benefit of CAD but it still came out pretty good, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have editing clients who do almost no scene-setting. (I call it white room syndrome because the characters could be anywhere.) And I have others who can go on for pages about a pillow. I love world-building, but there is a “right” amount. It works best if the description can serve double duty (like you said) to drive the plot.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Harmony. I wrote this series with the pantsers in mind. Plotters probably already do some form of this. I wanted to create a simple way for pantsers to organize their work without it being stifling for their creative process.

      Liked by 1 person

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