As a result, poor reader, you will step onto a white brick road.
How necessary is it to be specific with your setting? I mean really. We don't want to bore a reader or laden them with pages of details. Yawn.
I believe God's Words can be used here: all things in moderation.
But what is moderation? Sometimes we're told we have too much, other times we're told we have too little.
The Setting Game
and explore this topic.
If I mentioned the word fire in my setting, what would you imagine? Oh, you can't answer because you don't know what else is going on in the scene/have enough information? Bravo!
Okay, let's try again. Be sure to read the entire paragraph.
First setting: You are sitting at a table. White tablecloth, china dishes, too many pieces of silverware are placed in the proper position. You are wearing your very best clothes because this is the date of a lifetime. Across from you is the most beautiful/handsome person you've ever met. It is February 14th. In the center of the table the fire flickers, the glow reflects from your date's water glass.
What you pictured for the word fire? Place your answer for this first question in the comment section.
Second setting. You are in the woods and smell smoke. The group of hikers around you comment on the scent, wondering where it is coming from. Your friends come to the end of the path and see fire. A hundred yards away is a log cabin. A man stands outside the doorway, waves his arm with a full swing and calls out to the group. "I need your help."
You and the other hikers rush toward the man. "What's wrong?"
The man says, "You're finally back. We're cooking s'mores over the fire and need more sticks."
What did you pictured for the word fire? Place this second answer in the comment section.
Third setting. Your eyes smart. Breathing has been difficult for the last several hours. You have concern for the coughing coming from your children and wonder if a trip to the hospital is necessary. The clouds on the horizon have a sunset color. An announcement comes over the television stating your neighborhood must evacuate due to fire.
What did you picture for the word fire? Place this third answer in the comment section.
As you can see there is so much more to setting than a few simple words. In the first setting we could also detect a romantic interlude, the second an outdoor adventure, and the third, a family's home setting.
Here is your second word. What do you picture when I give you the word blizzard? Oh, so you think that one is easier, eh?
First setting: You are driving along in a little commuter Yugo through busy streets where buildings on your left cast a long shadow even at noon. The tank is almost empty but you planned to get gas at the station four blocks up the road where the price is cheaper. You glance to the right. Lake Michigan waters have a heavy chop, white caps frost each wave.
The wind suddenly shoves into your car. You grip the steering wheel with both hands and squeeze. The sky darkens before you clear the intersection behind a long line of other vehicles. The air become a wall of white. A moment ago you knew where to drive, you've followed the same path for five years. At this second, however, you can't see beyond the hood of your car and can't be sure the Yugo is still on the road. The wind howls and pummels your car with sleet and snow. Three dings from the dash later the engine dies.
Where are you? and bonus question: What should you do? This will be answer number four.
Second Setting: You and your three friends velcro special footwear over your boots and dress in layered outerwear. The backpack you're carrying has an ax, rope, water, extra gloves, and other needed supplies for the trip. There hasn't been a car in the vicinity for miles. The four of you have been hiking on varying inclined terrains for an hour and haven't seen a structure any time recently.
The wind gusts, increasing speed and challenging your sense of balance. The trees bend at their trunks. Their branches flail knocking into each other. You and your friends note the drop off several feet ahead and stop to make a plan. A storm hadn't been in the forecast, but a heavy cloud blasts across the sky saturating the air with freezing moisture. You pull out your cell phone and remember there is no coverage at this high, remote altitude.
Where are you? and bonus question: What should you do? This will be answer number five.
Each setting took little space to give the reader the meaning of the word fire or blizzard. The point is readers have different preconceived ideas about the meaning of a word. If you need the reader to create a specific image in their mind for a word, paint the setting with vivid words that convey emotion, senses, and etc. Fire can be good or bad. A blizzard can be good or bad. Any snowy northerner care to share the good of a blizzard? Two words: no school. :)