Describe setting from characters’ perspectives

Novice writers often possess a good understanding of how to write a great description of a story’s setting and of how to present evocative details. Indeed, the ability to create beautiful imagery through words often is a skill that encouraged many aspiring writers to aspire to write a book in the first place.

Unfortunately, sometimes novice writers present great descriptions that don’t really advance the story. The use of such wording, while pretty and emotive in its own right, actually can slow the story and feel superfluous.

Usually the cause for this is the writer showing off his or her talent at penning great descriptions. But to make those appeals to sight, sound, smell, touch and taste truly great, the author ought to ensure they relate to the character in some way. Rather than simply be a lush description of any city or any street or any waiting room that any person could experience, they ought to be details that the story’s viewpoint character experiences.

By doing so, the writer gives the reader a better understanding of the viewpoint character’s motivations and perceptions of the world. The reader then can better grasp the viewpoint character’s mood and can better identify with that character.

For example, anyone visiting a beach can feel the sand between their toes, hear the screech of seagulls, and feel the warm water as the waves crash against their ankles. But writers always should ask how their viewpoint character would perceive the beach. Maybe that character finds sand between the toes scratchy, thinks the seagulls are dive bombing her, and considers the water too cold for her liking. Now the reader is experiencing the beach in the way the viewpoint character does, and we have a better sense of the latter’s personality and intentions.

Such writing does require a bit more effort on the part of the author. But the result often is a better story that the reader can better appreciate – and that always brings many rewards to the writer.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.