Every story has a main character. Sometimes more than one. But the most-often neglected main character sometimes gets lost. Who am I talking about?
Your setting, of course!
Why is the setting a main character?
Think about it. Every story has to have a setting. It can be set in a fictional world, the past, the future, just about anywhere you can think of! This means your setting is one of the most important parts of your story. Setting is what makes the world believable.
Some settings can be the catalyst for the whole story. Example: your book is about characters trapped on a sinking boat. Your setting would be the boat and the ocean, and anything else that contributes to the where and why of your story.
Don't let your descriptions of the time, place, word, etc. fall to the wayside. You don't have to describe everything, but give the reader enough that they can clearly visualize when and where they are.
Some settings require a lot more research.
As author Dan Heiser will tell you, there is sometimes a lot of research necessary for writing a convincing setting.
"How much research is enough research for fictional writing? The answer to that question is endless. For some, no research is needed, for others, years of research are required. As a historical fiction author myself, I spend as much time, if not more time, researching than I do actually writing. But my purpose today is to educate you on the importance of research for fictional writing even if you think you don’t even need it.
I can hear the groans and protests now. “My world doesn’t exist, I’ve made everything up. I need no research.” Oh, but you are sadly mistaken my friend. Even if your city, economy, and characters never existed in the physical realm of life, ideologies and structured systems work the same way in our world as your fictional world."
As Dan will tell you, you need to know about your world. Is it fictional? Is it on another planet? Does it use money as currency? What is the society like? Are there religions?
A lot of these questions may never actually be addressed in your writing, and that's okay! I keep a notebook of things about my worlds so that if they come up, I have a guide. Flushing out your world on the sidelines helps your writing feel more full when you finally start addressing some of these things.
Most importantly, enjoy where you're writing!
Sometimes settings can be boring or feel like they're bogging your story down. If this is the case, maybe the setting isn't right, or maybe you're offering too much setting and not enough story. It can be a fine line to walk, but once you find the right balance, your story will feel so alive! Don't worry about getting it right on the first attempt. It can take several drafts to get it right!
What are some of your favorite settings?