Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Why the World is a Dark and Dreary Place (Sometimes)

As a writer you have the opportunity to make the world, any world, and it can be as filled with rainbows or as dark and depressing as you want – so long as your characters see it that way. Scene setting is a big part of writing. Without it your readers can be lost as to where your story (or even just a scene) is taking place and without this context they may find your story difficult to follow. But setting isn’t just influenced by the time and place in which your story takes place but by the emotions of your POV character.

Let me give you an example.

A couple of weeks ago I had to have a pet put down at the vets. Her name was Freckles and she was a beautiful speckled bantam chicken. If you think that her being a chicken made me less sad that I had to put her down, then you’re wrong. She was a pet, not an eating bird hence the trip to the vets when she got sick. I knew she would probably not be coming home with me.

After she had been put down I went to the counter to pay but there was already someone being served. The woman in front of me was chatting, going on and on about something, deciding on what worming tablets to get, deciding on whether to get a raffle ticket or not. Meanwhile I was barely holding back tears.

Had I been in a good mood here are the words I would have used to describe this scene:

chatting, entertaining, light-hearted, joyful, fun, friendly

But I was not in a good mood. I was deeply sad and just wanted to get out of there and go home. So these are the words that were in my head:

prattling, irritating, vapid, ridiculous, inconsiderate

My emotions completely coloured my perceptions and your characters’ emotions will do the same, regardless of the world you’re creating. If they’re running late the wait at the traffic lights might seem too long. If they’re dreading getting home, it might seem too short. If their best-friend just stabbed them in the back they might totally miss the rainbow and only see the drizzle that soaks them to the bone.

However you see the scene you’re describing, you better rethink it in terms of how your character is feeling at the time. Don’t let your good mood get in the way of their miserable one.


I'm an educator, mum and wife living in beautiful Victoria, Australia. I make learning resources for passionate, but time-poor, teachers in need of a better work-life balance. I'm a voracious reader, love a good curry, and believe life is always better with chocolate.

3 thoughts on “Why the World is a Dark and Dreary Place (Sometimes)

  1. I’m going to be a bore and say it again. One of the blogs that for me is always a pleasure to read. I mean it’s obvious what you are saying but your context is always refreshing and enlightening. As a creative I love reading it.
    Sorry about Freckles. Totally get it.

    1. Thank you! That’s so kind of you. You and I could form our own ‘mutual admiration club’. 😉

      That’s the problem with pets. We love them despite knowing that they will almost certainly die before us.

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