The setting of your novel is just as important as character development and dialogue. It needs to accurately reflect the period or define the world-building making it as vibrating and sensory as possible. It’s much more than painting a picture, its a fine art of evoking the five senses to bring the story alive, immersing the reader into the world you’ve created.
Whilst it’s tempting to fill your pages with purple prose and lengthy descriptions, be mindful that those approaches tend to bog a story down. Foreshadowing is a great tool that allows the writer to drip feed upcoming events; a carefully placed dagger might elude to a murder or a broken lock might reveal how a derelict house is broken into. However, relevance is vital, if that dagger isn’t going to be used to drive the plot forward don’t use it for the sake of embellishing a scene. Aside from the odd red herring to mislead your reader, everything should have a purpose, even if it is only to show how affluent your character is or to reveal aspects of their personality.
To help develop the story and anchor the reader, include details such as the time of day, weather, place, or season. For example: An apple tree in early bloom would hint at spring. Some of the specifics could be done through character description and clothing, but others can be hinted at while your character moves through the setting. Instead show the streetlamps flaring to life as the sun dips below the high-rise buildings. Perhaps car lights reflect off of the slick tarmac to reveal a rainy night.
Another great writing technique is to add symbolism, we see symbols every day and take them for granted: A heart means love. Red signals passion or anger. And even names and places can have a meaning behind them. We can go further using similes, such as, as brave as a lion. Or by using metaphors: Imagine a character returning home to take care of an elderly parent, to find their childhood farm in a run-down dilapidated condition, much like the health of their loved one.
Use the landscape or worldbuilding as an obstacle for your character to overcome. An anxious character might fear large cities full of people. What would happen if he had to travel to a big city to meet with his dream agent? OK, so that’s one of my potential obstacles, but you can start to understand how facing that fear would be a great challenge.
Lastly, let’s not forget the advantages the five senses play when crafting a novel. They can be used to foreshadow, show the passing of time, reveal landscapes that build plot and play with symbolism. But never underestimate the importance of evoking emotions in your readers, all of which can be done by arousing the five senses as the character’s move through the story.
What technique do you need to work on? And which is your preferred method of evoking emotions in your reader? Please comment, you know I love hearing from you.
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