Because setting is something we tend to do more of at the start (we "set the scene" and describe our worlds), it's not uncommon for setting details to fade as the novel progresses. We know the world, so we don't always remember to add those descriptive details in later chapters. And that can lead to weak worlds and "white room" settings in the back half of the novel.
As we write our novels and flesh out our worlds, no matter if they're modern day New York or the fantasy village of Hineta, it's not a bad idea to think about how consistent the setting is--and if it's keeping up with the rest of the novel.
Does the setting continue to to the end, or does it fade out?It can be hard to keep a setting going, because once we've used the perfect details to show it, we can't just keep using those same details or it'll feel repetitious. It might also feel strange if the characters keep remarking on setting long after it's been established. Or, we might just get caught up in the excitement of the plot and forget to describe it.
(Tips on grounding readers in your world here)
The world is a big place, so there are probably other details that can reinforce the setting and still reveal something new about it. This is especially true in science fiction or fantasy where the world is so much of the draw. Try thinking about:
- What details might have changed since the book opened?
- What details might have been uncovered?
- Are there any recurring details that could become a theme or symbol?
- Are there reasons why the POV might notice new details?
- Are you treating every scene as if the reader had never seen it before, or building off of what you've already done?
(Tips on how much to describe your setting here)
Does the point of view character's view about the world change, or does she see the same world in the same way?There are great opportunities to set the scene and show character growth in the back half of the story. Opinions of a place change as people grow and learn new things. What seemed like an intimidating and stand-offish village might become a safe haven with people who watch out for each other once we get to know them. The harsh lights of a big city might feel magical after we lived there a while.
- What is known at the end of the book that wasn't at the start? Does it affect the setting?
- Does the character re-evaluate her opinion on anything setting related?
- Do the same details evoke a different emotional response?
- Does she see her place in the world different? How does that change things?
Is too much time spent on the setting?Sometimes we can go too far the opposite direction. Describing every little detail can get tedious, especially if it doesn't tell the reader anything new. It risks bogging down a story and dragging the pace to a crawl. Examine your scenes and ask:
- Does the character stop the story every scene to describe where she is?
- Does she spend more time talking about what something looks like than actually doing anything?
- Are there a lot of sweeping word paintings that focus on the landscape or weather?
- Do interior scenes read like chapters from an interior design magazine?
Getting lost in a book in one of my favorites things, and when the world is real and wonderful I enjoy it even more.
Where do you fall on settings? Minimalist or heavy describer? Is your setting as clear and vibrant by the end of the book as it is in the beginning?