Learn How To Self-Edit #AuthorToolboxBlogHop Emotional Impact of Setting

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Thank you, Raimey Gallant for organizing the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. Today is the third post of this new series, and I’m very excited to be part of it.

This is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, just hop on over to Ramey Gallant!

I’ll focus this entire series on self-editing. The first blog in my series covers Why Learn To Self-EditThe second blog covered Characters In The Context of Editing.

Today’s topic is setting.


I once read a book where I didn’t skim any of the setting descriptions. Afterward, I wondered why. Engaging settings generate emotion.

I admit I’m impatient with too much description. To learn what captured me, I re-read the book and highlighted every sentence that described the setting. I realized the author only described things or places that were relevant to the plot.

That was the moment I went on a mission to learn everything I could about setting and how to use it to make my novels more enjoyable.


Location is the place where a scene happens. 

When describing the location, ask yourself: Is the location important to the plot, characters, or theme? If no, fewer details are required. If yes, be more generous with the details.

Once you’ve determined the location for each scene, ask yourself if the setting is the best place for emotional impact. This one little question helps you:

  • Increase or decrease conflict
  • Increase or decrease tension
  • Set the mood
  • Highlight emotion
  • Show characterization
  • Slow down or speed up pacing

Thinking about location in terms of emotional impact will wake up your creativity. Let me give you an example.

Suppose you have a character who is afraid of the dark. Imagine the character is about to have a confrontation with an employee. If the character feels confident being in his office and you want the character to be in a position of strength, then use the office as a setting.

If you want him to feel vulnerable during the confrontation, try locating him outside, at night, in an isolated parking lot. And make it very dark. The streetlight is broken. There is no moon. Maybe it’s windy, so a yell for help won’t be heard.

Do you see the difference? The location can help you bring out emotion in the scene by showing conflict, tension, mood, and characterization. Conflict is action that is happening. Tension is the suspicion/dread something will happen.

You decide what emotion you want the reader to feel, then decide how the location can help elicit that emotion.

If you think the location is not the best place for emotional impact, it’s time for a rewrite. Set the scene where you can elicit strong emotions, then rewrite the scene in that location.


More Self-Editing Advice


If you’re looking for more help on self-editing download the free eBook, BIG-PICTURE Editing 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Make Your Story Work and learn how big-picture editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story. We call these components the Key Elements Of Fiction.  Our eBook shows you how to use the key elements of fiction to evaluate your story and become your own big-picture editor.


Interested In An Automated Approach To Big-Picture Self-Editing?


Feedback Innovations (which I happen to be the CEO of) is building the Feedback app .

COMING AUGUST 2017! We are now testing with authors and you are invited to a free two-week trial. Just let me know if you’re interested.

Feedback is the first web app to help fiction writers evaluate their own work with a focus on story, not words.

With Feedback, you can focus on plot, character, and setting. You can evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first.

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Happy editing and thanks for reading…


39 thoughts on “Learn How To Self-Edit #AuthorToolboxBlogHop Emotional Impact of Setting

  1. I’m very bad at setting. Not because I can’t write it, but I forget to! My characters operate in a void. Setting is not the second thing I add, but most likely the ninth or tenth.
    Thanks for the reminder of how important setting is and the correct way to add it to most influence the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great advice! I don’t like to read too much description but it’s sometimes hard to know what is too much information versus not enough. I’ll definitely think of that in my revision. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Is the location important to the plot, characters, or theme? If no, fewer details are required. If yes, be more generous with the details.” <–THIS!

    And it's always best to have cause to input more details, eg, best to have a location that matters in the situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I write alternate world fantasy, and I live and breath my worlds, so I’m more likely to run into the issue of too little description than too much. Asking yourself these questions can be great, but sometimes–especially in alternate worlds–we need an outsider to point out the things about our carefully crafted settings that need better explanation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can only imagine how hard it is to design your fantasy world. I like to read fantasy, but not sure I could write one. It’s great if you have trusted readers that can give your pointers to things they don’t understand.


  5. Someone once suggested thinking about setting as a character, and I’ve always found that incredibly helpful! You make a good point about linking detail level with relevance – there’s no point in wasting words and readers’ attention on a room that only exists so that people can stand there.

    And – I’m super interested in trying out Feedback, if you’re still looking for beta testers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Katherine, I’m testing the latest update of Feedback right now! and yes we are still looking for beta testers. If you’re interested, pop on over to https://feedbackforfiction.com/sign-up-ks/ and sign up for early access. We are starting our next round of testers the first week in July – after everyone enjoys the long weekend 🙂 We’re giving a free two-week trial and would love it if you were part of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for this, especially the correlation between details and relevance. I feel I’m a bit hit or miss on settings so I can see this being a good way of making sure I’m hitting the right ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Is the location important to the plot, characters, or theme? If no, fewer details are required. If yes, be more generous with the details.” This will change my life. Also, I’ve always been nervous to admit this to other authors, but before I started reading as a writer, I ALWAYS skimmed setting. Please sign me up for a trial of Feedback, and let me know if you need anything from me. You have my email. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I always look forward to your self-editing posts! Description is definitely a weak point of mine, I never add enough in. I’m not a visual thinker, but using emotions to help tie it all in and make it all that much more important might help. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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