Setting, in your creative nonfiction writing, is everything that supports, impacts, infringes, or affects your characters. First and foremost, it is important to understand that no two people are alike. We all have different perceptions and understandings of everything in our life and the world around us.
Therefore, when creating a scene, use the world around you in a different way. Help the reader to understand your world, your environment as you experience it. Now, this does not mean you should create a treatise on the flowering of your favorite African violet. It means to use what that African violet means to you, or how it makes you feel, to help us understand.
Of course you can also create an environment, or a world around your character, as you write your scene instead of using something you know. You can research environments you always wanted to visit, or places you are afraid of. Whatever will bring out to use the feeling or experience your character is having with the world or scene around them.
Using elements from the world around you or your characters will bring your story to life. Instead of saying that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City was “packed as usual,” talk about one or more of the floats or huge balloons. Did the wind steal the Mickey Mouse balloon? Were the police busy watching the marching band instead of watching for crimes? Take what might be ordinary to you and bring it to life in an unusual way by remembering that others don’t experience it the way you do.
Bringing the unexpected out of the ordinary works best for most locales that are normal to most people by nature. When using an exotic locale you should work the opposite way. Make the exotic seem like the house next door or the park you love down the street. This brings the reader closer to the story and characters instead of moving them back and away from the experiences in your story.
Each action in your scene, like the small actions in a play, bring a range of experiences and emotions, increase the intensity of a situation, and enable the reader to feel as though they are actually in the story with your characters.
When you focus on a particular kind of weather, a particular time or place, you are then able to manipulate the mood, move the action forward and reveal the character.