Copyright © 2011, Steven E. Houchin. All rights reserved.
One of the things I often see when editing or critiquing a manuscript is that the author launches into a new scene or chapter without setting the scene. Instead, we’re subjected to paragraphs of dialog or narration about what the characters are doing. It’s like the characters are floating in a black void, detached from time and place. The reader will manufacture his own mental image of the scene, immerse himself in it, and then is later jarred out of the story when the author finally gives a hint of where or when the action is taking place.
In my opinion, the scene-setting should begin within the first paragraph of the new scene. More can be added as the scene goes on, but the longer the author waits to set it up, the more the reader constructs his own time and place - maybe incorrectly. That can lead to confusion or frustration later, and diminished reader enjoyment of your story.