Realistic settings immerse readers in the story, as well as contributing to the story's overall atmosphere and mood. These hacks help you to make your settings more immersive.
Don’t Let Them JUST Be Backdrops
To really immerse your reader in a setting, have your characters actually interact with said setting.
- Have them pick up and test fruits for firmness in a marketplace, or feel the texture of the carpets that are for sale.
- Have their toes sink into the cold, wet sand.
- Have them peel spiderwebs from the doorhandles so they can open them.
Engage the Senses
Instead of just listing what the character sees, also consider what they can feel, smell, hear, or taste. This adds some texture to your descriptions to immerse your readers.
For example, a dorm may smell like sweat and stale air. The blankets might feel starchy. The characters might hear footsteps in the hallway, or doors opening and closing. I made you a free cheat sheet for describing settings in this way.
Use Weather to Add Details
If your descriptions feel stale, see if you can liven them up by describing how the weather interacts with / changes the setting. If your city description doesn’t feel quite right, for example, you could show the buildings emerging from the morning mist.
You could show the fogged-up amber windows and the diffused glow of streetlights. Another example: if your market scene feels flat, you can make it rain. You can show the patter of raindrops on waterproof awnings, and the sellers bundling up in coats, shouting through the rain.
How does the setting make your character feel? Does it remind them of any significant memories? Do they hate the citrus smell of their school’s floor cleaner because it reminds them of the hospital?
Why is this significant? How does this make them feel? Do they walk faster to escape the newly-mopped hallways to avoid thinking about their sick mother?