Write a Better Plot Step 3: Setting for the Beginning

One of the things that writers sometimes take for granted is the setting of their novel. Setting is a very important part of any story. It includes not just the place and time, but also atmosphere, and the world view of the character. In this third video in her series, Martha Alderson talks about the setting for the beginning of the novel.

Notes from the video: The beginning of the novel is also known as the ordinary world. It is the condition of the character’s world before things happen. For many stories, the beginning setting is different from the setting at the end.

Now we look at the beginning setting for the three characters, whose stories we’ve been analyzing in the previous videos about how to plot a novel.

Aragorn: In the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, we don’t see much of Aragorn’s world. But we learn about it as the story moves along. Aragorn’s ordinary world is that of a Ranger. He doesn’t have a permanent home, and no apparent companions. He is a essentially a free spirit.

Frodo: Frodo’s begining world is the comfortable and idyllic Shire. It is a world of backyard gardens, homey pubs, and carefree days. The worst thing that can happen is that the neighbors will frown on you if you even think of going on a bit of adventure beyond your own yard.

Hiccup: In the beginning of the movie, Hiccup described his home in such memorable terms that I will simply quote them here:

This is Berk. It’s twelve days north of Hopeless and a few degrees south of Freezing to Death. It’s located solidly on the Meridian of Misery. My village. In a word? Sturdy, and it’s been here for seven generations, but every single building is new. We have fishing, hunting, and a charming view of the sunset. The only problems are the pests. You see, most places have mice or mosquitoes. We have…dragons.

What is the setting of your own story? What is your character’s ordinary world? How can you show that world in a way that makes it enticing and sets up the rest of your story at the same time?

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