Fine tuning the settings of your novel – questions to ask yourself

The previous post focused on making general choices regarding the location of your novel, such as a real vs. imaginary world and where to set the dwelling of your characters.

This entry will look closer at what to consider location wise before starting your writing process.

Personally, I prefer to make separate word documents, one for each setting that I will use in my novel. But one can also accomplish this task by hand or using other formats such as Excel.

For most writers it is a no-brainer to sit down and think about their main characters, what they are like physically and psychologically, before writing a novel. However, the same dedication is often not given to location. Of course, one could argue that they do not need to write out the characteristics of an apartment or restaurant (I know what an apartment/restaurant looks like. Everyone does.).

But if you truly want to engulf your reader in your novel your descriptions can’t be generic. They need to be good. They need to be precise. They need to convey not only where your character is but also something about your protagonist, the flair of the scene, or the theme of your novel.

While you don’t need to draw in detail each of the houses of every individual that is mentioned in your manuscript, I would recommend doing so for the main ones. You might also want to include a floor plan of a house/neighborhood if your novel has chasing scenes.

Below you will find some questions that are useful in determining the settings of your novel.

Questions to ask yourself when imagining the home of your main characters:

  • What is the character like? What do they like? (e.g. expensive, shabby-chic, minimalistic style)
  • What can they afford? (e.g. neighborhood they live in, seize of home, type of amenities, type of material used throughout the house)
  • Where do they spend most of their time at home and why? (e.g. kitchen –cooking; living room – entertainment and socializing; outdoors- nature person or have a pet, etc.)


If the workplace of your main character plays an important part in your novel, try to envisage it as well in as many details as you can. Questions to ask:

  • How big is the office? How many employees work in that building?
  • Is it open-space with open door policy or does everyone have his or her personal office?
  • Are there any restricted areas?


Lastly, think about where your characters like to spend their free time:

If they enjoy being outdoors:

  • Do they go to spots of nature modified by people? (e.g. pools & gardens)
  • Do they go into the ‘pure’ nature? (e.g. hiking & surfing)



If they have a favorite hang-out:

  • Is it a restaurant, bar, café, or music venue?
  • How old is it? (Does it have an interesting past history?)
  • What are the average prices there?
  • What is the crowd like?
  • Is it noisy/busy?


Finally, another helpful approach is to draw the main locations in your novel or find photos online or in magazines that represent in your mind the location. You can add them to your file, or your preferred method, to ensure the place you have chosen or imagined remains consistent throughout your novel.

One Comment on “Fine tuning the settings of your novel – questions to ask yourself

  1. Pingback: Writer’s bible | Margarita

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