One of my favourite books is The Loner by Ester Wier. There is a terrifying scene where the main character, David, stumbles into an abandoned mine and falls down a mineshaft. Thankfully, David lands on a plank of wood and it stops him from tumbling into the pitch-black waters below. It’s completely dark, David is on his own, and the wood creaks precariously under his weight. The setting is perfect for tension.
Note: I chewed my nails HEAPS when reading that scene.
Another one of my favourite books is Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle, which is set in a Lilliputian world – everything is miniature. People are so small that they harness ants and beetles to do heavy carrying. Their world is a giant oak tree. The setting is perfect for curiosity. What if everyone were this small? What if a tree were home to humanity?
Wendy Orr’s masterpiece, Dragonfly Song, is set in the time of the ancient Greeks, around 1450 BCE. The reader is sucked into an old world, where slaves, goddesses, ships and rituals are commonplace. It’s a time so unfamiliar to our own that we can’t help but be intrigued.
Then there is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Who wouldn’t want to explore the moving staircases or the countless mysterious corridors?
When planning Toffle Towers, I made sure that the main setting – the hotel – made room for lots of adventures. There are hidden passages, locked doors, a gravity-free dining room (yippee!) and an ever-busy lobby filled with fascinating guests.
Story settings can pull a reader deep into a world. Settings undoubtedly give us lots of freedom as writers. We are free to build worlds as we like!
How will you use setting to hook your readers? Do you have a favourite type of setting? Let me know in the comments.