Setting Inspiration for NaNoWriMo

We’re almost halfway through NaNoWriMo, and you may have hit a wall of writer’s block. It often happens when you are pouring yourself into a creative effort. Never fear. I’m providing writing prompts this month to break that block. Sometimes, a writer needs a new setting to suggest new characters and plot points to get their creative juices flowing again. In my first novel, A Shadow on the Snow, I had to watch how many scenes I had take place in vehicles and while eating. So examine the photos below for setting inspiration for NaNoWriMo. If you find something that snags your attentions, please leave your ideas in the comments.

For more settings prompts, click here. What are your favorite settings to write about?

Analyzing the Mood of a Setting

One thing I enjoy about visiting new places is analyzing the mood of a setting. Of course, the mood I bring to a location will affect how I perceive it, but I also try to examine the “vibe” a place gives off, independent of how I’m feeling at the time.

For example, I visited a library in a small city. Now I’m predisposed to love libraries because I’ve used them since I was a child and was a children’s librarian for ten years. But I wasn’t in the building long before I felt uncomfortable and even depressed. This wasn’t a friendly library. So I tried to figure out why I felt that way. Signs were posted warning patrons about rules. The library was extra quiet. Although the staff was polite, they weren’t friendly, as if they had other things to do than wait on patrons. I have the impression that removing books from the shelves would have been frowned upon.

Once I’ve dissected the mood of a place, I can file it away for possible use in a story.

Want to try out your analysis of setting? Check out these setting prompts.

Do you analyze the mood of a setting? How do you write about it?

Start a Story with a Setting

Settings are the ugly ducklings in the world of literary elements. They aren’t appreciated for how rich they can make a story. But some writers can’t begin a story without first finding the right setting. Maybe you want to start a story with a setting, but that’s as far as you’ve gotten. How can you develop characters? Concoct a plot? Find a theme? Ask yourself the questions below so you can home in on why this setting seems perfect for inspiring a story, beyond that you kinda like it.

What first attracted you to the setting?

Is it because you are very familiar with it? Knowing a setting down to its roots can make it come alive to readers. Maybe it’s the small mountain town where you grew up. Or the fishing boat you worked on for three summer in high school. Perhaps you’ve worked at a fish hatchery for ten years and know that business inside and out. Or you love to bird and love the settings you’ve visited to pursue your hobby.

Or maybe the setting captured your interest because you’d love to know more about it. I started watching Nova and Nature on PBS years ago because my oldest is a science nut. I still watch them because I find them introducing me to worlds and occupations I never new about. Several years ago, PBS showed a series on a revitalized Gorongosa Park in Mozambique. A wildlife filmmaker who grew up in neighboring African countries was the host. Through the series, I learned about him, the rangers in the park, his sister, who studies elephants, and the politics of the country, both past and present–all kinds of information stemming from a gorgeous location.

Who lives in this setting?

Once you pinpoint why you think your setting would be terrific for a story, make a list of the people you would find there. If you’re not sure, do research. Like I said above, I learned about the people who live in and around the national park, enough to spark ideas for stories set there. If you can visit your setting, talk to the people living there. While on vacation on the coast of North Carolina, my family took a pontoon boat to Cape Lookout. The captain of our boat had the strangest accent– it sounded like a cross between Australian and southern. As he spoke to other passengers, I learned that he had been raised on one of the barrier islands along the North Carolina coas, and those people have their own unique accents. I’d heard the same thing about people growing up on islands in Chesapeake Bay.

That got me to thinking: why do they have unique accents? Do people still living there retain them or is the outside world making them sound like everyone else in North Carolina? What would it be like to grow up in a place that’s isolated enough to produce its own accent?

How do people live in this setting?

Once you start getting to know the people of a setting, plots will start popping. If you want to use your hometown, maybe it’s because a corrupt mayor was arrested there when you were in junior high and you think that could kick off the plot for a mystery. Since I tend to write for teens, I might wonder what it’d be like for a high schooler to have grown up on a barrier island and feel torn between a life there and one in the larger world.

For more advice on writing about settings, click here.

How would you start a story with a setting?

Settings for NaNoWriMo

As you tackle your novel for NaNoWriMo, you may run into writer’s block. One way to overcome it is to find fresh settings. Setting as a source of inspiration is often overlooked. But a new setting can provide the spark for new characters and fresh plot twists. Let’s say your city police detective needs to question a suspect. Sending him to a location where he feels uncomfortable is a perfect way to create tension. Where could that be? A rural location could work, like a farm. A farm suggests a farmer. Who could this farmer be? Would he or she want to take to the detective or not? So the right setting can be just the first step in a new creative process. Take a look at the photos below as settings for NaNoWriMo if you need inspiration to break down a writer’s block.

For more photo prompts for settings, click here.

I find this photo fascinating. Where is the house built? It could be a setting now or in the future.

Let me know if any of these photos inspire you!

NaNoWriMo Prompts for Settings

While writing my YA mystery, I noticed that my characters seemed to hold a lot of conversations in vehicles. Since the book is set in a rural county in Ohio, driving is an integral part of the lives of my characters. But I didn’t want to bore my readers. So I changed one scene from a conversation in a SUV to the two characters talking while hurrying to the SUV and then just the final lines while they were in the vehicle. A small change, but I knew I needed to provide more variety in my settings. If your characters need to find some fresh locations, take a look at these NaNoWriMo prompts for settings.

Let me know if one of these photos inspire you!

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