Writing Exercises for April – Setting


Time to start the next series of writing exercises! Let’s focus on settings.

These writing exercises are intended to help beginners who are stuck, but I try to make them useful for writers of all levels.

Last month focused on solidifying your character as a fully developed person with motivations and ambitions. This month, we’re looking at the setting for your story.

Let’s kick this off with a simple question:

Where did your main character grow up?

Choose any POV character from any story you are working on, or you can make a new character for this. I want you to tell me as much as you possibly can about the character’s hometown (or the place they grew up if it’s not a town or city).

Even if the character’s hometown doesn’t appear in the story, I still want you to do this – you’ll have an easier time selling the reader on your main character as your character relates their current situation to their earlier experiences.

Your Character’s Hometown:

  • What kind of place is it? City, town, hamlet, ranch, etc.?
  • What’s the weather usually like? Cold winters, hot summers, lots of rain, dry and dusty, etc.?
  • Are your character’s neighbors generally poor, rich, or middle-class? Are most people able to afford basics like food, shelter, and education?
  • Are most people well-educated or not? Is there a college or university nearby?
  • Do most people have the same job (like in a mining town), or are there a variety of jobs available? Is there a lot of unemployment?
  • Are there a variety of ethnicities represented in this area, or are most people from a one or two ethnic backgrounds?
  • Are there a variety of religions represented, or is there generally one religion everyone is expected to share? Or do most people just not talk about it?
  • What do people do for fun? Think about nightlife, bars, cafes, parks, and other entertainment available in this environment.
  • Does your character like their hometown? What do they like and hate about it?
  • Do other folks around your character generally share these likes and dislikes? (For example, maybe everybody thinks the local pubs serve piss for beer, or maybe everyone is super proud of the local college).
  • If a middle-class tourist from a well-developed city visited this hometown, what do you think they would notice first? Friendly people, dirty streets, lots of coffee shops, expensive cars parked at shoddy houses, or some other detail that would stand out immediately to the majority of visitors.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should help you get started.

Think of other details you can add that will tell me about your main character’s hometown and write about half a page.

I’ll share my own details about William Flynn, one of the main POV characters from Far Flung, on Thursday.

Keep on writing!


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