Setting: The Canvas of Your Story

This post is a part of "Muse Mondays", a new weekly craft series hosted by Hallee Bridgeman. Talented, hard-working authors will blog about craft-related topics, and link back to Hallee's blog, so that we can all share and learn! Click here to head over and see the entire list of participating authors.

Obviously, I read. A lot. And obviously, I write. A lot.

No matter where I am or what I'm doing, I have stories playing out in my head. I'm always plotting. Always thinking. And everywhere I go I find something to relate back to my writing.

This summer, my family and I took a two-week vacation out west. We drove from our home in Kentucky to San Diego, California, and took time to enjoy several really amazing places in between, such as the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas (If you don’t know what it is, Google it! It’s SO cool!), the Grand Canyon, and several other Route 66 attractions. In San Diego, we saw the Pacific Ocean in all it’s glory… the flat, sandy beaches of Coronado, the rocky cliffs of La Jolla, and the simple beauty of the Silver Strand. During the trip, we saw farmland, desert, mountains, coastal areas, cities, small towns, Native American reservations, and many different walks of life.

As a reader and a writer, it made me really think about the importance of the setting in a story. I love such a variety of settings in the stories I read, but what makes the story come alive is when the setting becomes such a part of the story that it’s a character itself. Perhaps is a story set in New Orleans, and the descriptions of the food and the quirky phrases used by the characters make the setting such a strong presence. Or maybe it’s a book set on the coast, and the sounds of the ocean waves and the smell of the salty air transport me to another place for a while. Or maybe the green fields and craggy cliffs of Scotland give me a glimpse of what life is like there.

Whatever the setting of a book, it has the power not only to drive the story, but also to offer readers an escape. It imbues the story with its personality, creates an atmosphere in which the characters can interact, react, grow, and overcome. It becomes the canvas on which the rest of the action comes to life in brilliant color. It creates for the reader a space to “crawl into” in which to experience the story along with the characters.

My trip across the country, where I experienced such different landscapes and ways of life than I’m used to in my every day life, gave me the opportunity to think about the books whose settings have truly captured me and the authors who’ve so skillfully integrated the settings into their stories. It made me appreciate the fact that although I haven’t traveled extensively, reading books in various settings can take me to exotic and amazing places. It made me even more aware of the way the setting of a story can truly become another character, and pushed me to delve even deeper to develop the a "sense of place" in my own stories!


  1. Excellent post, Amy. I really enjoyed it. And setting is so important. It can enhance a story so much.
    Teresa R.

  2. I'm sooo jealous of that trip. It is on my "bucket list" and I hope to convince hubby and kids to attempt something other than an East Coast beach vacay next year. Not that there's anything wrong with the beach--another great setting, but there's so much out there left to be seen.

  3. I've driven across the country three times -- Oregon to Florida, New York to California, and California to Florida. I love having those experiences and knowing what the Rockies look like, or the desert in southern Texas or the swamp land of Louisiana. It's wonderful.

    Thank you for linking up!