Writing Mini-Lessons: Setting Exploration, Stepping into the Picture

Another way to begin to develop setting is to practice observing and describing details of a specific place. We can look at a work of art or notice special places in our daily lives and start to imagine sensory details of these settings.  How would you describe them to someone who couldn’t visit them?  What characteristics encapsulate the essence of these places?

Here are some additional questions to employ, independently or with a partner, to begin to think about some aspects of building a vivid, realistic setting, one in which characters reside.  When you are working with a partner, answer these questions orally.  What other questions would you ask and answer?

  1. Where are you?  Describe the place and give it a name.
  2. Why are you there?
  3. What time of year is it?  Describe the climate, weather, and temperature.
  4. What time of day is it?  How does the light provide clues?
  5. What are you doing?
  6. What sounds do you hear?
  7. Describe the texture of something you might pick up.
  8. Who or what might be there that is not actually visible in the artwork?
  9. What do you anticipate might happen next?
  10. What is the mood or feeling of the place? Use at least four adjectives in your description.  What is it in the artwork that gives you this feeling?
  11. What is the sense of space in this artwork?  How does the artist convey this?
  12. Give your own title to the artwork or the setting depicted within.

Below are three renowned Impressionist works to start you “stepping into the picture” to develop setting.

Claude_Monet_-_Jardin_à_Sainte-Adresse Cliff-Walk-at-Pourville---monet