5 Reasons Why You Need a Setting

by Patience Bloom

When you are writing a romance, it can be easy to forget about setting. Your protagonists are wrapped up in a love cocoon, grappling with their conflicts. Classic romance hooks abound with a baby, maybe a cowboy, a wedding, a stuck-in-an-elevator night of passion, a pregnancy, a misunderstanding, and at the end, a rapturous realization of true love. Oh, wait. They have to be somewhere? Indeed, they do! Even though it takes time and energy to set up the places in your romance, the payoff is huge for the reader. Here is what happens when you give us those lush setting details.

Your characters have somewhere to go. They are no longer walking around in a void. So, imagine the environment of your story. What do the buildings, streets, rooms, gardens look like. Is there a lovely knitting store? Okay, that is my idea of heaven, along with a well-stocked bakery. What do your hero and heroine see when they look out a window?

Setting reveals your characters. Where they live or go informs the reader about the kind of people they are. So your main character loves the city. Why do they love it? The takeout options, the stores, the skyscrapers, the glamorous offices? Describe all of that and your reader will want to go deeper. Do your characters live for their setting or do they just kind of exist where they find themselves? These may be profound questions, but still, the details provide the nuance that your romance needs.

Your reader wants to go somewhere else. Isn’t it one of the perks of reading–to escape? You can do this with your setting. Go anywhere just by sitting on the couch. Yep, I’ve been all over the world thanks to the books I read. There is always a new spot to visit and one doesn’t need to go through long lines in the airport!

A setting can be comforting. As John Cougar Mellencamp relays, I was born and lived in a small town (for a few years) and there’s nothing more heart-warming than a close-knit community. Though if your community is in Paris, we invite you to sing about it!

The “where” of your romance is an integral part of storytelling. Setting can be another character. And just as with cardboard characters, a lack of setting will leave a story feeling one-dimensional. All you have left are people and dialogue going nowhere. So dive in and tell us about those kitchen cabinets, the flower beds, the diner, the mansion, the flying buttresses, the long and winding road.

As you are writing, take the time to enrich your story with as much setting as you can stand. We want to see where your characters live, work, share their first kiss, and maybe even what meals they eat (but not too much because sometimes it makes us editors eat, too). With every nugget, you give a gift–and a clearer picture–for your reader.