Creative Writing Project: Create a Setting | Dani and Steve Alcorn | Skillshare

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Creative Writing Project: Create a Setting

teacher avatar Dani and Steve Alcorn, Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      The Purpose of Settings


    • 3.

      Creating a Setting Step by Step


    • 4.

      Project: Write Your Setting


    • 5.

      Next Steps


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About This Class

The Creative Writing Project series helps you complete a novel, short story or screenplay. Each class focuses on a specific step in the creative process, from brainstorming to publication. The goal is to get you published!

This class shows you the purpose of settings, and guides you step by step through the process of creating a vibrant, active setting in which your story can take place. When you complete this class you be intimately familiar with a process that can bring to life every setting in your Creative Writing Project.

The classes in this series include:

  • Creative Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Character
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 1
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 2
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 3
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure a Scene
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Setting
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Great Dialogue
  • Creative Writing Project: Energize Your Manuscript
  • Creative Writing Project: Publish Your Book
  • Creative Writing Project: Market Your Book

Meet Your Teacher

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Dani and Steve Alcorn

Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors


Steve Alcorn is the author of many novels and non-fiction books. His publications include mysteries, young adult novels, a romance novel, children's books, history and non-fiction about theme park design, and the writer's guide How to Fix Your Novel.

Dani Alcorn is the Chief Operating Officer of Writing Academy, a writing instructor, and author of Young Adult fiction, screenplays, and a screenwriting handbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University, where she majored in Psychology and Radio, Television, & Film.

Steve and Dani have helped more than 50,000 aspiring authors structure their novels. Many of their students are now published authors.

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to the creative writing project. I'm Steve Alcorn, your instructor and mentor. These classes air all about projects. They're all about creating your own original novel, short story or screenplay step by Step one project at a time. The ultimate goal of this course is by the time you've completed these projects, you'll be ready to publish. I'm the author of a number of novels, travel books, Children's books, nonfiction books about the theme park industry and the book How to Fix Your Novel, which tells you all about the techniques you'll use to structure and create your own original work of fiction. It's techniques that will draw upon throughout this class in order to achieve your ultimate goal of getting into print. So let's get started the creative writing project. This lesson is all about creating a setting. In this overview, I'll introduce you to the topic of creating a setting. Then we'll look at the purpose of settings. They're not just there for adornment. They serve a real purpose in all fiction, and I'll show you what that is. Then I'll show you how to build a setting step by step. If you thought creating a setting was just about writing about a spot. It's much more, and this technique makes it very easy to create vivid and deep settings. Then, in the project section of the course, you'll have an opportunity to create your own setting. Finally, in the last lesson, I'll show you some next steps to further your own writing career. Let's get started. 2. The Purpose of Settings: all books and most screenplays contain setting information. But what is the real purpose of a setting? Well, sure, it establishes where the character is to create some context for the story. But settings air not just stage decoration. They can actually serve significant purposes in your writing. One of the first things you can do with the setting is established the mood, and we've all seen this. Perhaps we weren't conscious of it. But how many times in a movie has something bad happened? And the protagonist is really dejected and sad, and they're going home and it's raining and their umbrella doesn't work in the streets or wet and the car's air splashing the water up out of the curb. So there's a setting and weather condition that really conveys the mood of this story, and it shows what has happened to the protagonist in that light. And similarly, if something happy happens to the protagonist, it could be on a sunny, bright day, and they could be at the fairground, and there could be rides in the background with happy Children screaming. And so there again, the setting is working to establish the mood that your story has at that point, a setting can also be used to define the rules that your plot needs to follow. For example, if your story is set in a prison, then there are certain limitations imposed upon the characters, which they wouldn't feel if they were on a deserted Ire island or in a schoolyard or at home. And so the setting can control what can happen in your plot. Also, settings can be used to sharpen the action because a setting is an expectation. If the setting is a busy bar and the music is loud and blaring and there's a lot of people crowded around, you would expect there to be loud conversations shouting, maybe some violence, actions of fistfight or something sharp would happen. Whereas if the setting was pastoral, Um, and someone's lounging on a picnic blanket having a conversation, then we don't expect that same sort of action. So setting conveys with it a certain expectation for what is going to happen in your plot. And finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, setting can actually even be used to enhance your dialogue. It's not always necessary to describe the setting. In previous projects, I showed you how you could use scene and sequel and how you could incorporate the setting into the goal or conflict sections of the scene. But the setting can actually also be conveyed right within the dialogue. Instead of describing a place you can actually have your characters talk about the place and subtly convey their environment and, more importantly, how they see the environment to your readers. So those are all the different ways that a setting can contribute to your story. And in the next lesson, we're going to take a look at how you can create your own setting step by step, starting with something very simple and ending up with something very dense and layered and atmospheric, easy as pie. Join me there. 3. Creating a Setting Step by Step: This is one of my favorite lessons in the entire course series. It's about building a setting step by step, because when I used to write settings, it was always a little difficult for me to get inspired. I usually skip over long descriptions of places in a novel, and so trying to get the inspiration to write good settings of my own was a bit of a challenge. And it came as quite a surprise to me that there's a very simple process that you can follow step by step to create a really tangible setting, and it's really fun to see what the results are of the process. The way you do it is that you start out with your simple description of a place. Maybe it's a path through a forest or something, and then you get more specific. You think about exactly how that path works, what it's made out of what it passes between as it moves through the forest, and then you create some action, even if it's action on the part of inanimate objects like the wind in the trees or ah, some animal rustling that you can't see or just the way that the shadows play upon things in the setting, and then you add adjectives that can convey the mood you're trying to get across in your setting. For example, in my example of a path through the forest, it's possible that that is a very sedate, serene scene there, snow falling. It's very quiet and rest ful. Or perhaps someone is being chased and so leaves air flying all around, and the sunlight is shattering its way through the different branches. As the person passes through, you can really incorporate it a lot of mood just in your setting description and then at some of the other senses into your setting, other than just what it looks like. What does it sound like? What does it smell like? What is it like to pass through it? What does it feel like? Is it a hot day? A cold day is the sun on your skin and so on and then add the potential for change over time if the setting is one way now, but the setting might be a little bit later. By the time that this scene ends, indicate how it's shifting that the shadows air playing across Iraq or the raindrops are starting to fall through the leaves and then make sure that you use active verbs throughout the description of your setting and by active verbs. I mean, avoid verbs, like is R B was had been. All those things are very inactive. Instead, find exciting active ways to state the same things. Instead of saying that there were leaves on the ground say, leaves covered the ground. Just the simple change from an inactive passive verb to an active one can make all the difference. And finally make sure that you place your protagonist in the scene, do it right at the beginning of the scene so that we establish who is perceiving this and we feel it and experience it. Here it see it through that person's senses. It will make the scene riel and make us more connected to the protagonist because we're perceiving it. Justus. She does. So we'll follow these seven techniques in order to build a setting in the project section of the class, which is coming up next, joined me there to create your own setting 4. Project: Write Your Setting: Now it's your turn to create a setting. Let's right, you're setting. Let's do it step by step like we did in the previous lesson. But let's do it with your setting now. So what I'd like you to do is open up a document file and write a line describing your setting. Now save that line. Just make a copy of it skipped down and let's edit it so that you can compare the before and after later on. So I'd like you to work on it to be more specific. Addie, in colors at in objects at In Sense and Smells creates Um, action makes some things move around in your settings so that it's not just static sitting there and add some adjectives that convey the mood of your setting. Figure out how the person is supposed to feel in your setting and use colors and use weather and other things to convey what that mood is through the setting. Make sure that you incorporate all of the different senses not just site, but sounds and maybe smells, and perhaps the way it feels, whether it's hot or cold. Maybe not taste, although sometimes that could work in. If you can taste the air on your tongue or something, and then add the potential for some change over time to your setting if things might change , or if the shadows air moving. If the weather is changing. If the person is moving through the environment, incorporate that and then use active verbs. Don't use passive verbs. Avoid the is is ours was and worst search for those and find each one of those. Take it out and replace it with a verb that actually indicates something is doing something . And above all, make sure that in the very first line you've established who is experiencing this setting so that we can experience it through their perceptions. And then once you've done all of that, go back and polish that until you have a finished product that you're really happy with, and then come and share it with us in the community discussion area so that we can see both here before and your after versions of your setting. Have fun with that and we'll see you there 5. Next Steps: thanks for joining me on this journey. I've enjoyed it and I hope you have to. Thing is one of a dozen different projects that are available through this series, of course, is if you follow all of these projects from brainstorming all the way to marketing, you'll be able to bring your idea for a novel, short story or screenplay to reality, step by step and project by project. In the meantime, I hope you'll follow us on Facebook and be sure to sign up for free writing tips. I look forward to seeing you there. Until then, happy writing.