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Get Inspired! Setting Ideas for a Short Story

written by: Julia Bodeeb • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/5/2012

Ask students questions to help them start to create a setting for a short story. Brainstorm ideas together as a class to help students gain confidence in enjoying creating a setting for their unique short story.

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    Create a Fabulous Setting!

    Students usually love short story writing. It allows them to use their imaginations and to explore their ideas about the world and life. However, students sometimes have trouble deciding upon the setting to use for their story. They do not want to set the story where they live, but they panic at deciding how to create a unique setting.

    Thus I use a few writing prompts and questions to guide them to create a setting that they will enjoy writing about. Have the class brainstorm ideas for settings together. This takes away the fear of writing and helps students build confidence in choosing a setting. Urge them to use lots of detail and imagery when describing the setting in their story.

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    If You Could Be Anywhere Today?

    I ask the class: If you could be anywhere today where would you be? Some students want to be on a Caribbean vacation, others want to be on the Moon. Others want to be in the country where they were born, or a country where they long to be. The answers to this question are intriguing and help students get focused on deciding upon a story for a setting that they will find exciting to write about.

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    What Climate do you Favor?

    Some people are delighted with the climate where they live. Others long for a climate radically different from the one they currently experience. Use the climate to help pick a story setting. Pick a place for the story where the climate would delight you. If you like tropical heat, set the story in Miami Florida. If you like cold weather and lots of snow consider setting the story in Alaska.

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    What is Your Ethnic Background?

    Ask the class to think about where their family was from originally. What is the ethnic background of relatives? Many students in America are of mixed races and thus have many settings available to choose from. Other students can trace their heritage to one specific country and may wish to set their story there.

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    What Adventure do you Long For?

    Do you want to explore the Pyramids in Egypt? Do you long to see the Taj Mahal? Are you taking Russian classes because you long to someday see Moscow? We all have secret dreams for adventures we long to have. What is the setting of your favorite adventure? You may want to use that place for the setting of a story.

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    Where Have You Been on Vacation?

    If you set a story in a place where you have vacationed you will have lots of details about the setting to use in a story. Vacation memories tend to be vivid. So use those memories to create a stunning setting that will intrigue the reader of your story.

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    Additional Questions

    Some other questions to ask the class to prompt ideas for story settings include:

    • What is your favorite color? Create an imaginary setting with a town name of that color.
    • What is your favorite team in sports? Use the location of the team as the setting for your story.
    • What is your favorite car? Use the meaning of the car’s name to find a story setting. For example, the Denali is named after Denali, Alaska. The Jaguar could be named after the Jaguar lion found in Africa.
    • What is your favorite flower? Pick a setting where that flower grows abundantly. Oregon could be a setting because the rose thrives there. You could have the characters visit the lush rose gardens in Oregon.

    Be creative. There are many questions to ask students that will give them the moment of joy when they discover a fun idea for a story setting.

    When you assess their short stories, check to see that they have created a setting that is easy to visualize because they have provided adequate details and imagery.

    Use Google search to find places for high school students to submit their short stories for publication. There are many websites that will accept works from high school students.