Fiction Writing Masterclass

Lesson 4: Creating Setting in Fiction

This week we’ll discuss ways you can make ordinary places interesting, how to bring invented places to life, plus the importance of setting in relation to character and plot.

Elizabeth Dawber
15 min readFeb 21, 2022
Image created by the author in Canva

This is the fourth lesson in an 8-part series on writing fiction. It has been designed to take you through the process of writing a short story from start to finish. For more information, including the content covered in each lesson, check out my introductory post here.

So far in this fiction writing series, we’ve predominantly focused on character building and development. This is because it is your readers’ emotional investment in the characters in your story that will keep them reading to find out their fate. However, you likely have your characters operating in a vacuum right now — to really bring them to life we need to place them in a setting.

The spaces your characters inhabit and the possessions they own tell us a lot about who they are. Look around your own environment now. What would a stranger learn about who you are from your surroundings? I have two books on the table in front of me, the first is a puzzle book — Around the World in 100 Wordsearches. The second book is Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik. If your character owned these books what would it reveal about them? The puzzle book is an easy clue, someone who likes to travel, and who also likes brain games. The second book, for those who have read it or watched the film adaptation, might make a guess that the person reading it is a bit of a rebel. It probably won’t come as a surprise then that I’m a digital nomad, currently in Bangkok — living my own adventure, away from the 9–5 corporate world.

Image by author

What aspects of setting you choose to focus on in your short story is how the audience will see that character. There are numerous ways to create setting and build character; let’s look at a few of them now.

Describing common places in fresh and unique ways



Elizabeth Dawber

English literature & creative writing grad | MWC semi-finalist | Former editor @ The Startup | I write about this thing called life | Human | Pen for hire |🇬🇧