Creative Writing Assignment #1: Setting

This creative writing assignment focuses on the importance of having a well-described setting in your student's fiction stories. By learning how to concentrate on details in their own rooms, neighborhoods and cities, they will be more able to express those qualities when creating fictional locations.

Start the creative writing assignment by teaching your students about setting. Discuss how setting is the context for a story and is often used to set the mood or tone. Since setting includes time, any location can be placed in a certain culture or historical period, for example, in many parts of the United States, a story set over 500 years ago would involve American Indians. Ask your students for some examples of setting in books that they enjoy and make a list.

Talk about the fact that many authors base the settings in their books on places that they've lived or places that they've researched. For example, popular young adult author Sarah Dessen bases many of her books in a town based on Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Give your students a creative writing assignment inside or outside of class to make a list of 10 sentences or more that describe the city you all live in. After the assignment is complete, have the students volunteer to read these descriptive sentences out loud and at the end, make a list on the board of some of the common themes that have come up. Ask your students to write down this list as well.

Follow this classroom activity with an assignment to create a story set in a fictional town that is very similar to the town or city you live in. Remind them that they have a whole list of ways to describe this location, in addition to all the sentences they heard in class. Give them as much freedom as possible with what the story can be about. When the assignment is complete, have as many of them read the story aloud in class as possible. This can be a great teaching moment for showing how the same town (the same setting) can be used completely differently in different stories. This goes to show how much impact a setting can have in fiction.

Other assignments you can create as a follow-up include having your students come up with a story based on a place they've never been, which would require extensive research or to have them make up a location on another planet entirely. 

Done with Creative Writing Assignment #1? Go back to Creative Writing Tips.

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Written by Bryan Cohen

Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on and Facebook.
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