How Do I Fill in My Setting?

Here’s the problem with picking up writing a new story after a long (like, a year) break and having a different vision for the story when you come back to it: it’s scary. And I’m afraid I’m going to miss putting in some crucial background details that will make the whole world come alive. I only have about 25 pages written, so it’s not earth-shattering right now, but I need to fill in some of the details to make the setting sing.

On one hand, I’m terrified that my setting is going to fall flat. On the other, I don’t want to get bogged down in the minutiae and not write. Catch-22. Danged if I don’t, danged if I do. So, what do I do?

I do need some advice. Should I stop the actual writing to go back and fill in all the holes I can sense in my setting? Or should I keep writing the draft, and keep a separate file for all the setting details/problems/ideas that come to me, so I can put them in later? Has anyone else ever had this problem? What was your solution? Or how do you avoid holes in your setting to start with?

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2 thoughts on “How Do I Fill in My Setting?

  1. Wow, an incredibly difficult question(s) to answer because I believe the answer is so related to an author’s style. My settings are in the “real” world so first I cheat by putting the story in places i know. That makes it easy to describe (see it and write it). Second, the reader’s brain is very good at generalizing the image from small details. In a fantasy world, I’d imagine creating that visual universe is more important and more detailed. But Im guessing you, as the author, can see that landscape very clearly. I would never stop the most important part of the process (the characters, the plot) to worry over the setting. My suggestion – keep the writing moving forward – then go back and add the color around it. Like painting, get the structure and then add texture and details. Another way to put it…You don’t worry about sharks when you’re drowning.

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    1. Thanks, Raymond. That’s true. I don’t want to drown. 🙂 I think part of the problem is I have to switch things up a bit now. When I first started writing it, it was straight dystopian fantasy. Now, it’s still that, but another genre thrown in, too, for which the setting needs to be pretty well fleshed out. Well. When I say “setting,” I really mean culture,” I guess. Society, maybe. (That’s not confusing AT ALL…)

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