Will it be a big place or a small one? Depending on what happens in your tale, its primary setting could be a vast forest, a tiny village, or a large and bustling city. It could be a forty-acre farm or a 780-square-foot house on a lot in town. It could be one room, or a palace so large even the servants sometimes get lost. You can use an entire country or just a small county or town within that country. You can even hop between planets.
How will you measure it–in feet, or in miles? As you name and consider your place and its attributes in your mind, so your characters will also. If it is a fantasy world, perhaps it will have its own terms, and it will make them known to you. A few familiar ones:
- League – a measurement used in fairy tales, a league is a Middle English term meaning a distance of about three miles (roughly).
- Furlong – about 220 yards, or the length of a good furrow (Old English).
- Wheels – In Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, the gunslinger Roland speaks of distance in this measurement, which varies in continuity anywhere from 1.1 to 1.7 miles each.
I like the last example best, because 1) King made it up, and 2) I’m rereading the series before Hollywood completely borks it.
Strangers to this land of yours won’t know how far something is unless someone explains it to them. You’ll need to place landmarks, so travelers may judge their progress.
Vast or miniscule, populated or barren, wild or cultivated, your setting is the frame for your characters. Give it as much thought as you would them and it will serve you well.