Moving on to setting. We need to paint a picture, give the reader of our story a sense of place.
Do you have your three characters from the earlier exercise?
Great. Which names did you choose and why?
As a rule I generally use no more than three named characters in a 1,000 word story and around five in a 2,000 word story. It’s not a fixed rule but if you litter a 1,000 word short story with multiple characters the reader will get confused. So take a look again – do you need to delete a character?
Let’s get started.
I was walking my dog this afternoon in the woodland that backs on to the bottom of my garden. There’s a lot of work being going on there lately and I often hear the sound of saws as I write in my office. It’s a volunteer project. Men are clearing the holly that has invaded the gaps between the oaks and silver birch and making pathways for a trail. The trees are logged and the branches are chipped to make bark pathways. It’s beginning to take shape now, little by little. Sometimes if the men have taken a break I will stop and chat with them about what they are doing and what area they are going to tackle next. Some of the sturdier branches they leave in piles so kids can make them into dens. It’s wonderful to see the different areas that are being created for everyone to enjoy.
So, back to setting. What are your character doing there? Are they working on the project together? Are two of them long timers, been there from the start and the other character a newcomer? Is he younger? Fitter? Is he or she doing community service? Why are your characters there, at that particular time? Perhaps it’s a bunch of kids? Perhaps your characters are a mum, dad and child? Get playing around with who those characters could be.
I like to take photos of different places I visit. I use them as prompts to start or set a story but I also use them for research and reminders. As I walk along I see the black, boggy areas, the scorched earth where the bonfire was. I’ll remember the pine cones and acorns that litter the woodland floor, the shadows, the birds and insects. The photographs will remind me of the sounds I heard on that walk- the breeze through the trees, the planes overhead, dogs barking in the distance. All these details will help me ground my story and give the reader a sense of place.