Setting and Location


If you were to consider opening a business, location is near the top of that list, along with funding, marketing and promoting. You need to create a buzz that will direct patrons to your site and business. Having a location for your novel is just as important. Where does your story happen? Everything begins somewhere. What is the weather like? Because that can help decide the location. If you are building worlds, you have more to plan, like the ecosystem, the inhabitants, the climate. Whether your main character is fighting demons on the Moon, or battling aliens in an underworld city, the location needs to be incorporated into the story.

Writing a screenplay is similar to stage writing. However, there are no inner voices or in-depth descriptions. Whatever is important to the scene needs to be seen. If a telephone is going to be used at some point, then the phone should be somewhere on the set. Detailed descriptions of characters aren’t written in the screenplay. (There’s a character page for that. Example: Jane Smith, 30-35, high-strung business woman that requires lots of attention. John Doe: 30-35, witty, loves to be the hero.) In a screenplay, there’s a lot of white space on the paper and is roughly 90 to 120 pages in length. The script is filled with dialogue and set props. Let’s say the opening scene is in an alleyway. You want to determine if it’s day or night. Is the sun shining? Or is there a streetlight on? Picture the alleyway. Are there Dumpsters? Trash bins? Debris? Is the pavement wet? Snowy? Dry? All the details are in the first paragraph to the scene. It should be simple and written in the present tense. Write what you see. Are the characters already in the alleyway? Enter John Doe. Is he pacing, nervously? Because that will show the character’s emotional state. Is he checking his watch? Maybe he’s just anxious. The audience cannot hear his thoughts, we sit and watch with anticipation. It’s the actor/actress that makes the characters come to life through the use of body language and how the dialogue is delivered. What needs to happen in this scene sets up the next scene, like chapters in a book. Opening scenes need to grip the audience, like reading a novel. Something important has to happen in the alleyway that pertains to the rest of the story, otherwise the scene is unimportant.


Mini example: Mystery

Scene 1: Exterior—alleyway

The alleyway is dim. A streetlight shines overhead. The pavement is wet from a previous rainfall. Loose paper and trash carpet the alleyway. John Doe paces, smoking a cigarette. He’s wearing a dark overcoat. In his free-hand is an envelope. He turns toward the sound of heels. Enter Jane Smith. She’s wearing a full-length, white fur coat. Her auburn hair is swept in a fancy up-do. Her makeup is perfectly applied.


(He tosses his cigarette to the side.)

It’s about time, Jane. I have other appointments.


(She smirks)

Honestly, John. You work for me. And if it took me all night to get here, I’d expect you to be waiting, not complaining.


Fine. Let’s get this over with. I got what you asked for. Are you sure you want to go through with this? It’s going to piss off a lot of people.


That’s precisely why I want it.


It’s your funeral.

(He hands Jane the envelope. Before she accepts, gunshots are fired off screen. Jane drops to the ground. Her white coat is stained red. Another shot is fired. John runs, gripping the envelope.)

Cut to the next scene.


Another detail you want to add to your storyline, is when it takes place. Which era? Historical, contemporary, futuristic. Maybe your main character is time traveling. Whatever time frame you choose, do the research. You can’t have cell phones if they weren’t invented yet. And even if they were invented, not everybody had one, or could afford one and then who would they be calling? Unless the character is part of a government secret service and has a shoe-phone like Maxwell Smart, or nifty gadgets like James Bond, then anything will work.

Be inventive!

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