Build a Setting

Build a Setting

What is it?

In this game, players detail a setting item by item, bringing it to physical and sensory life.

How to Play:

This game allows players to build a setting one item at a time. In a group setting, this can be a collaborative space which will then provide the backdrop for an improv game or a scene in a staged presentation. The game can also be used to build a more fully realized setting for a scene in one's story.


In a one-on-one setting, this game works best as a drawing game. Writers should use a plain sheet of paper and diagram and label their setting as they define it. You facilitate the game with a series of questions.


Online as a group, you can play as described above, with each player drawing the setting they imagine. Alternately, you can ask players to stand up and move in their own rooms away from the screen to physicalize and visualize and tap into a different kind of thinking.

If you want to try using the whiteboard feature in Zoom (or other online settings) you can collaboratively draw one space, with each player adding an item to the space as you go. This approach can maximize visualization skills from stronger players and support others who are struggling with the concept of bringing the scene to 3-D life.


In classrooms, this game can be played on one’s feet. Players walk through an imaginary door and define the large objects in the space, the smaller ones, and then specifics, such as something in the space that’s broken, surprising, memorable, or personally meaningful.


Starting with the largest items in the "room" (a bed, a table, a giant oak) can help ground the rest of the scene building. Once you know something big is somewhere, you have to build around that item.

It can help to walk through a "door" to build the setting, so if the space is outdoors, players may want to visualize the way in, whether that's pushing past hanging ivy, stepping onto a forest path, or squeezing through the space between two trees.

Alternate Uses:

Exploring WP Rooms: Players can enter spaces in their own Writerly Play hideout to build out the room and better understand the tools and mindset of that specific space. Consider starting with the Attic, which is a personal space to begin with that holds many objects and items from the writer's own life.

Characterization: Explore a space that is important to the character to learn more about the character’s personality, tastes, interests and dislikes.

Setting Exploration: Players choose a setting from their story about which they need to learn more.