Story Setting: How to craft your world

Story setting is the time and geographic location within a narrative. It sets the tone and mood for a story, and is used to give a description of what is going on around the characters within your world.

The main content on this page is as follows:

Core Elements Of Setting

There are four key elements to creating a story’s setting

Time: Is it morning, noon, evening, or night time. What time of the year is it. These are important factors to remember and describe.

Place: Where are the characters located. Describe the geography, weather, climate, are they outside or inside, what does it look like, what is around.

Context: What happens before has a major impact of what is currently happening, and what will happen as a result.

Mood: What is going on in the world around. Is the apocalypse going on, or are your characters at a baby shower. One of these places indicates a mood of panic and the other peace. how does the current setting have an impact on a characters mood. Cloudy days are depressing, storms are scary, and a beautiful sunny day brightens up our world.

Book Genre

book genre list

Most popular genres

Knowing the industry is important. Whether you are self publishing or trying to find an agent that will publish you traditionally, you will need to know your target audience, and the genre you will be writing.

Sales revenue generated is an important factor if you are writing to get published.

More importantly, choosing the right genre is important if you want to make money from your writing.

Listed below is information I found from a Statistical Article written by Thomas Herold at the website Book Ad Report.

Book Publishing Market Overview
  1. Romance/Erotica – $1.44 billion 
  2. Crime/Mystery – $728.2 million
  3. Religious/Inspirational – $720 million
  4. Science Fiction/Fantasy – $590.2 million
  5. Horror – $79.6 million 

Sales = Success of your book.

You will have a higher chance of being successful if your novel falls in line with a higher selling genre.

For instance, look at the market size of Horror compared to Romance. If you write a Romance novel, you have almost 20x the amount of readers that might want your book.

Bigger market = More sales

In summary, if you are interested in making money from writing, then genre is an important factor you need to consider.

However, if you have an amazing book it will sell many copies regardless. And just because some novels are Romance, it does not mean it will be more successful. These statistics only show the demand by genre.

Multiple Genres in the same story as sub genre

So you weren’t interested in writing romance before, but after seeing that the romance industry makes almost 20 times as money much as horror, so have a slight interest in it.

So what do you do?


Mix your genres together.

Most stories have a core genre the plot is focused on and then multiple sub-genres that are integrated into the story.

Think about it, how many action moves also involve a love interest who is won over in the end. Most of them just because and not from actual chemistry… But still.

Or think of how many books involve a mystery of some kind.

The point is, your genre is what you focus your story and its world on, but all stories have parts of other genres sprinkled in.

This will make your story more interesting by adding more to it. It also guarantees that more people will be willing to read it. Not everyone loves science fiction, but they might fall in love with a technology based story of two crossed lovers.

Structure of genres

Depending on your genre, your story will need certain elements to satisfy your readers. What do I mean by that?

Some publishers will even demand that a romance novel has a strict story structure, plot, and word count. You would think that avid romance readers would find this boring. Think again.

If you want to publish traditionally, you might want to research any requirements they have based on genre.

Click Here for a website that goes into detail on each genre and the basic guidelines they need to follow

World Building

When creating anything in your world, it is important to think of its role in not just one of these elements, but multiple, and how they interact. think about it, is it more interesting to learn about a medieval military, or a medieval military in a swamp that practices magic to discover a historical technology?

At the very least, it gives a better picture of how their society -like our own- integrates many different aspects of setting together.

Picture each of these elements below and how they are used in our world. Then picture what they would be like in your own world and how they interact with each other

There are infinite ways you could craft your novel’s setting, and an infinite amount of details you could add.

You will need to manage a balance between a world that feels real and a world so complicated only you can understand

What do you do?

I would advise writing only a single page for each of the world building elements above. This ensures that you go into enough detail of your world to make it feel real while also not getting lost within it.

List of world building elements

History: Everything in life is built of the grounds of what came before it. Delve into your story and uproot the most important occurrences of your worlds past. Then, let it shape other elements of your setting.

Technology– How advanced is your world? Do they use rock tools or highly sophisticated technological devices?

Occupations – Depending on the technology of your world, what jobs are common in your world?

Religion– What are the different kinds of religion(s) and what affect does it have on society

Politics– What type of government is most prominent in your world. Are there any interesting rules

Infrastructure: this is how a society organizes its structure and systems to effectively operate. An easy example is to think of is roads. What conditions are they in, are there lots of signs, what buildings are around them, and how thin or wide are they. Among many others, this also includes electricity, sewers, gas, and electricity.

Magic: Does your world have any version of magic? How is it incorporated into your society?

Geography and Weather: Location. Location. Location. Make sure that you include what environment your characters are in, and what kinds of weather they can expect to deal with.

Culture: Every civilization throughout human history has its own unique sets of values. Take any culture and write down its holidays, myths, legends, and traditions. After you have done that, create some of your own. They can be based on logic, wacky occurrences, history, or just for fun.

Military: Depending on your type of government and its relations to other societies in your world, you may need to add some sort on military.

Food: Enrich your readers senses by creating food in your world. Make it fantastically different and interesting. Just remember to make it similar enough to the food in our world to give it enough realism.

Flora: Plants have many possible uses in fiction. Plant uses include: Medicine, food, decoration, sickness, drugs, dangers, or imagery

Fauna: Animals can also have a wide array of uses in your story. Its up to you, but some ideas include: Pets, food, medicine, threats, companions, or just to be adorable.

Magic Systems

When most people hear the words fiction/fantasy, amazing worlds full of bizarre and interesting places come into mind.

One of the most common aspects of these worlds, is their Magic system

When creating a magic system for your world, you will need to ask yourself these questions:

  • What does the magic do?
  • Who can use it?
  • What are the consequences or limits of the magic used?
  • Where does it come from? (knowledge, genetics, objects, higher power)

Integration of magic

Your magic should have such a profound effect on your world, that if you removed magic from your world, everything would change. What is its role in society?

Take a list of all the world building elements and ask yourself “How does my magic system interact with this?”

Here are some sample questions:

Economy: What jobs are different that what would be considered normal.

Culture and traditions

Attitudes towards magic and its users

Hard Magic Systems

A hard magic system is one that has clearly defined rules of what a power/ability is, what is can do, and any consequences that will occur when pushed outside of those limitations.

How can this be cleverly be used to problem solve obstacles throughout the series. Hard systems are like a mathematical function:

Magical input and requirements = Magic output and consequences.

Great to help foreshadow what will happen in the end. Easier to help achieve the desired emotional response in the end. Used to solve conflict in logical and believable ways.

Be careful though, too many rules can drive a reader crazy. Most people would rather play a board game while playing, rather than spending an hour going over the rules in excruciating detail.

The same can be said for your hard magic system. Start easy and gradually make your way into complicated territory.

Examples of a hard magic system:

  • Avatar The Last Airbender

Soft Magic Systems

This magic system Magic is vague and undefined, allowing characters to do random things without a need to prove why.

This creates a sense of awe and wonder adding to a natural curiosity of the world.

Just because powers are undefined, does not mean they are always unexplained. For example:

Star Wars has Jedi Knights who are born with midi-chlorians, which give them mind powers and the ability to utilize the force.

The movies explains why some characters have greater power than others, but does not go into detail of the difference in capabilities or what abilities they may harness.

When something magical happens, it can easily be summed up as “Oh. They did that because they can use the force.”

Give characters little control over magic they use or make it more unpredictable

Soft magic is not used to solve main conflicts, and

Examples of a soft magic system:

  • Harry potter:
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Game of Thrones

Brandon Sanderson’s laws of magic:

  1. An authors ability to solve problems with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understands that magic.
  2. Limitations of a magic system are more interesting than its capabilities. What the magic can’t do is more interesting than what is can. Flaws are more interesting than powers
  3. A brilliant magic system for a book is less often one with a thousand different powers and abilities, and is more often a magic system with relatively few powers that the author has considered in depth.

Power Scaling

Growth of a power should always feel organic. You should always show progress when increasing a power. you can do this through a training arc or eluding to something that happened like obtaining a magical artifact or a time skip.

When you jump from your character being able to one thing and then jump to another, it leaves readers confused.

Why are they suddenly more power? This doesn’t make sense. How come they can now do that when they couldn’t before? That would have easily solved the previous problem.

Examples of Limits and Rules

Hunter x Hunter (Hard): Natural ability and growth potential combines with personal affinity for a power and condition put to make it stronger.

Great magic system because it allows specific uses of the power to be way more powerful than they should, but because it is used in a specific way or with specific limitations, it makes it plausible as a viewer, and satisfying to see what the character personally came up with as a constraint.

My book (Hard Magic System): Some characters have a spirit power. If a characters pushes their power past what they should be able to do, it strains them.

When they strain their power, it starts to take over their body.

One character can transform into a dragon of various sizes.

This person used their power too much and now they have red scales coming out of random places of their body and and their nose is starting to morph into a snout.

Unsatisfying Use of Powers

Deus ex machina: A greek term that basically means a higher power will come in and solve the story or save the hero in the end.

Imagine reading an amazing book and the climax is coming up and you can barely contain how excited you are to see how it plays out. Now image that instead, a random magic force comes in a saves the day. The only emotional response you have is disappointment.

Plot armor: Whenever a main protagonists survive against impossible odds time and time again, readers will get bored.

This shows the POV is not held to the same standard as other characters, and takes away from the goals they accomplish. A character that just gained Superman power before winning the olympic 100m dash feels like a copout.

Lazy Writing: Using magic without a purpose makes it dull. Limit the use of magic in a story.

Think outside the box and be creative. Magic is interesting, and thats what your readers want, so don’t resort to cheap tricks or repetitive uses of magic in your story.

Inconsistencies: When choosing your magic system and implementing it, remember what your characters did before and what rules were used.

It breaks a readers trust when rules are conveniently broken or magic is used in a different way without context explaining why.

Information to consider

If you are writing a book series, then you need to realize that you will keep going more in depth with your magic systems.

Soft magic systems don’t always work in the long term. It will probably at some point, move along the spectrum closer to the hard magic system as you delve deeper into your story and its details.

When writing a hard magic system, it is a good idea to start off with very basic concepts that might seem to be more soft magic at first, and then gradually immerse your audience with examples that have rules attached to them. No info dumping.

In either case you need to start basic and gradually get more technical in the specifics of your magic system.

Since this is a guide to writing fiction, and since we love the supernatural, it is important to understand that which is out of the ordinary.

Types of Magic: super powers, aura, wands, supernatural,

Where does your magic come from? within, higher power, learning, objects

Rules to make it interesting: stakes, cost to use

Hard vs. Soft

Click Here for a great resource listing virtually ever power invented

6 Setting Examples: Effective Story Settings | Now Novel | Book writing  tips, Writing words, Novel writing

Extra Resources (Statistics on sales by genre) (Helpful guidelines by genre)

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