Word Building and Setting Details

It seems like I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts and articles on world building and setting.  Maybe it is just because, writing fiction, I am paying attention.  Which is possible.  It is definitely something that I am thinking about.

There are so many things that you need to consider just in regard to your character’s home.  Is it a free-standing structure or a connected dwelling like an apartment or a duplex?  How many rooms are there?  How large are they?  Are there windows? How many? How are they shaped?

You need to know these things to make your setting feel real.  It’s a lot of work.  And the temptation is to share all that you know with the reader.  But you can’t.  It would be overwhelming.  Besides, you are writing from the point of view of a particular character.  Done right, that will help limit you.

What I mean is this – you can only discuss the things that your point of view character would notice.  And you need to describe things in terms this character would use.  As an example, let’s say that my husband and I walk into the bedroom.

I’m going to notice the painting at the head of the bed.  It has been the same painting for 17 years now and I want to change it.  I will also notice the drapes that are too short for the sheers and that there is a small stack of mail in the sewing chair by one window.  I’m really happy to have a chair in that corner so I notice it often. Somewhere to sit and tie my shoes.  Yay!

My husband?  He’s looking for the jeans that he left hanging on the hook on the bathroom door.  Hmm. He’s pretty sure he left them there but they aren’t there now.  He’ll poke around on the dresser.  Nope, no bills to pay.  But there’s clean laundry on his side of the bed.  Sigh. Now he has to put it away.

Note – there is no notice of how high the ceilings are.  If you ask, my husband will be specific. I think they’re probably 10 feet.  Right?  Is that it?  Each character will notice slightly different things about a room. What they notice may depend on how their day has gone or what they need to get done.

You need to know it all so that you know what each will notice.  Your reader, on the other hand, will be just as glad if you keep some of it to yourself.