I’ve read articles on writing fiction which state that, if plot and character are the two most important ingredients, then setting is number three. I don’t look at it that way. For me, setting is an integral part of my writing. I use several key elements of setting: where the story takes place (location), when (time frame), the weather and the season of the year (including holidays) to create atmosphere (mood) in my novels. The following are examples of how I used those key elements of setting in my first novel, Mixed Messages. Notice how the elements often overlap.
Location: In the distance, she could hear the electronic carillon from Westwood Methodist Church playing the theme song from the old television show, The Adam’s Family. She began to hum along with the music as she stood there, gazing at the three-story, cream-colored Victorian, admiring its multi-gabled slate roof, turret and wrap-around veranda.
Time Frame: She finished pinning together the pieces of the kids’ Halloween costumes. She held them up, one at a time, and examined her work. Satisfied with the results, she turned her sewing machine on and, as she guided the material for Danielle’s costume under the needle, running her fingers across the smooth, satiny fabric . . . .
The weather: “What a gloomy day this has turned into,” David said aloud, flipping on the windshield wipers and turning on the headlights. The sky was gray and a light drizzle had begun to fall.
The season: Looking out at the trees with their scarlet, orange and golden leaves, she was reminded of a poem by Robert Frost that she’d had to memorize when she was in school. She strained to remember the words but all she could recall was the title, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”