Tuesday I shared my scene worksheet, so I thought I'd share my setting worksheet today. This is something else I've realized I really need to work on before getting started on my revisions. While I can see my setting clearly in my head, I don't always portray it well on paper. That is where this worksheet comes in handy.
The first few lines are very self explanatory and mostly there just to ground me. I'll list what that setting is, the chapter, the scene, the day and week (I keep track of this on a spreadsheet, too), time of day, and time of year. It's important to know what day of the week it is, and sometimes I need that little reminder of how many weeks into the story we are. Also, I find it important to list what time of day / year it is simply because that helps focus while I fill out the rest of the worksheet.
Next I pinpoint how my protagonist feels about this setting. There are always events occurring that will change how any protagonist sees or feels about a particular setting. Weather, time of day or year, and people all affect a setting, and they are constantly in flux.
Just as a reminder to myself to include what a setting looks like I'll jot down the physical details. In my current manuscript my protagonist finds herself in a total of four living rooms, all in different homes, belonging to different families. They are all drastically different from each other. These are the details that I include. I'll add in the size of the room, color, furniture, anything that I feel is important to note.
Our sensory details are important also. In my first chapter my protagonist visits two separate settings that are both extremely well cleaned. One is a place of business government run and the other a private residence. Adding in that the government run facility smells like bleach and that the private residence is filled with a scent of artificial flowers illicit very different visions to a reader. For that reason I list how it smells, the temperature (humid or hot, but dry), degree of light (can sometimes be determined by time of day and whether or not the setting is inside or outside), sounds within the setting, and taste. Yes, taste. You know how sometimes you can taste a nasty smell in the back of your throat (bleach) or the flavor of a food rings to mind when you smell a wonderful smell (food).
Not all of my settings are outside. A good many of them are inside. But I can't forget about the outside environment. There is a fire station in my neighborhood. As a result I can be in my house, but I will inevitably hear the fire trucks as they race away from the neighborhood. It's the same with weather. On sunny days I can hear birds chirping out my windows. And on nasty days I can hear the rain pelting the windows.
The next one I like. Sometimes it's fun to have something in a setting trip up a character. Something could be out of place. Or there's something off, but the character can't put his/her finger on it. Or there could be something obvious different, but the character doesn't feel it's his/her place to ask about it.
The next two are similar, but I like to separate them. I like to see if the setting can intrude upon the action of the scene. For example, a branch could fall into the path of characters walking. Or a picture frame of a long dead relative believed to be haunting a house could just fall off the wall, adding to suspense, even though it just simply broke.
On the flip side I like to ask myself if my characters could interact with the setting. In one scene my protagonist is jittery about a conversation that is happening next to her while she's cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. She knows more than she can let on and despite her best efforts she's a disaster. She drops a glass, shattering it on very expensive and fragile tile. Then she cuts her hand cleaning that mess up. She's the one interacting with the setting, instead of the setting intruding into her space.
Finally, I like to list anything else about the setting that I can think of. At one point one family is preparing for an upcoming social evening, it's not for a couple of chapters, but things are beginning to pile up. Even if those things are on the periphery, it doesn't hurt to note it and possibly make a quick mention of those items piling up. That way when the party occurs it isn't completely out of the blue for the reader.
Feel free to print or download a copy of this worksheet for your own
use. Or pick and choose what you want to use and create your own.