In THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, Noah Lukeman speaks about how often setting is neglected. Neglecting setting = BAD! If you use setting to your advantage it can add a whole new dimension, almost like the setting itself has become another character.
He gives the following example:
"Take a father and son, for example, having a casual conversation in their living room. Change that setting to a prison, the father and son having the same casual conversation on either side of a plastic divider. It's the same conversation, but it's not. There is suddenly a layer of subtext, of immediacy, of tragedy -- and all without telling us a word. A writer's chief objective is always subtelty, to convey information without actually saying anything, and setting is one powerful way to do that."
~ pg 163, The First Five Pages, 2010 Edition
He offers a few solutions to help bring your settings to life:
- Tiny details. A stain on the carpet, a broken window pane
- Draw on all five senses. A room can reek of dead fish or rubbish or a corpse. We can feel the characters feet sinking into the mud as they trudge through the mire.
- Climate. A torrential downpour, a steam room, a blizzard. Or get even more drastic with earthquakes and tornadoes!
- Interaction with the setting. A mother involved with kitchen chores as she chats to someone, a man struggling for his life in a boat in the midst of a storm.
- Use details to make an impression. A setting can be well described by saying, "It was a small dark room, poorly lit and airless", but better described by adding, "It was oppressive, like a tomb."
~ page 165 - 167 (paraphrased), The First Five Pages, 2010 Edition
This book has a lot of great advice, including examples of good and bad writing, possible solutions, and exercises at the end of each chapter. You should check it out if you haven't already got it!