A long time ago, when I started writing my first short story. I had no experience and didn’t know any fundamentals of writing. I just had an idea and poured the words on the paper. After I was done, I couldn’t figure what was missing in my story? The plot was good, so were the characters. So, I asked my friends and family to read it. Many of the feedback I got was regarding the setting. It took me a long time to understand the setting of a story plays a crucial part.
What is the setting of a story?
The setting is an element of a story that includes time and place. Setting answers the most important question when did the story took place? And where did it happened? Without a setting, it will be difficult for a reader to connect with the story.
Let’s say, A guy proposed to a girl. But the girl says “No” and the guy felt embarrassed. Well, for some this might be confusing girl saying “No” can be heartbreaking but how can it be embarrassing.
Now let’s add a little setting in it, A guy proposed to a girl on a stage in front of the crowd. But the girls said “No” and the guy felt embarrassed.
Now, this can be little insightful and answers why the guy felt embarrassed because it answers where he proposed to her? So, no matter what story you write about whether fiction or non-fiction. The setting does makes a difference in a story and does help to have an impact on the reader.
The setting is divided into two parts which are Familiar Setting and Unfamiliar Setting.
Familiar Setting is easily relatable by the reader and can be established with ease. Thus without much explanation, the reader can understand the atmosphere.
For instance, the story can be about today’s social media or about office interviews, or about something else where the atmosphere and environment are not much different.
In an unfamiliar setting, each detail plays an important part in the story. The unfamiliar setting is used when the character is in an unexperienced setting. Every detail is necessary for the reader to see it from the perspective of the narrator. There are many stories which include unfamiliar setting especially fantasy novels such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.
If done well, the unfamiliar setting can help the reader understand the story world and surroundings. It is difficult to establish. Thus, requires deep research on the time era, or place to which the story is related.
Elements of the Setting
Time answers the when of the story. The story can be about a historical era, or about midnight or a day, or about any particular date.
It depends on the writer which time-period he wants to use which is particular to his story and makes the reader understand the story better.
A story that occurred in the historical era will have a different setting rather than in the modern-day or in the futuristic period. Many writers use time as an important element in their stories.
Place answers the where of the story. It denotes where the story has occurred and describe the details of the place to the reader through a narrator.
Different places have a diverse impact. The place can be a local area, city, country, or any mystical and fantasy world. The writer must research about community, locality, and region if the primary element of setting is place.
However, if you are writing fantasy and creating a new world then it’s great to use your imagination, but it must be understandable by the reader.
“Places are never just places in a piece of writing. If they are, the author has failed. Setting is not inert. It is activated by point of view.”Carmen Maria Machado, In the Dream House
Mood and Atmosphere
Mood refers to the setting of locality and atmosphere (in which the story takes place), attitude, and description of the character.
The reader sees the surrounding through the characters point of view which shows the mood and atmosphere. The influence of the atmosphere can be different. A bright sunny day will impact differently than a dark silent night.
Types of Setting
Have you ever read the story, where the setting does not plays an important role in the storyline? It does not matter whether the story takes place in a historical era or future and city or rural area. Then it has a backdrop setting. In the backdrop setting, what the story is about matters rather than where and when it happened?
The best example of this is “Tom and Jerry”. It does not matter where Tom and Jerry’s story is gonna takes place, whether it’s inside a house, city, Jungle, or another planet. Because the story is about Tom chasing Jerry and that’s what is important not the setting.
A backdrop setting is used when the moral or point of the story matters. This setting is mostly used in children’s stories.
Integral Setting is used while the when and where of the story is important.
A love story in the modern era may not have a major impact. But, a love story between the prince and princess of rival kingdoms in the historical period. Now, this impacts at a larger stake because there can be war.
The best example of an integral setting is the Harry Potter series by famous author J. K. Rowling.
Tell us, do you use setting as much as you use other elements of the story? If you think we have missed any element of setting, please mention it in the comment section.
Sandeep Semwal works as a digital marketing intern by day and as a writer by night. He writes short stories and loves to unearth the stories through observation and imagination. He is the brains behind the writers crunch to share his writing experience.