Setting

Hello, Write Owls! Welcome to Day 14 of Storytelling 101. Today we’re talking about setting.

Setting is the time and place of your story. Think about where you want your story to take place. Is it on Earth, somewhere in space, or in a fantasy location? If it’s on Earth, which continent? Which country? Does it take place in a small town or a big city? Are the scenes in a school, an office, an apartment, a park, a motel? The setting will most likely change during your story, but you need to keep in mind where all of the settings are.

Time is just as important as location. There’s a big difference between the 1600s and the 2000s. There’s a difference between winter and summer. Weekdays are different from weekends, and night is different from day. Keep this in mind as well when determining the setting for your story.

Setting can have a direct influence on the story. Here are some examples:

Imagine a couple having an argument in their bedroom. How does this scene change when it takes place in the produce section of the grocery store?

Imagine a young woman alone in a hotel room. How does this situation change when she’s alone in a decrepit building in the middle of nowhere?

Imagine a family of six in a house with five bedrooms and four bathrooms. How does their dynamic change when they’re living in a two-bedroom apartment instead?

Imagine a teenager at school at noon on a Thursday. How does this situation change when the teenager’s at school at midnight on a Saturday?

Your setting can have significant influence on the story. Consider what setting is right for the scene you’re setting. What time and location make the most sense? Once you’ve chosen a setting for the scene you’re working on, show it to the reader. You don’t need to describe every leaf on every tree, but you should provide enough details for the reader to understand where the character(s) is. Readers are good at filling in details, so they’ll supply whatever you leave out. Make sure you describe the important things. If the painting your character inherited from Great Aunt Millie is the key to solving the story’s mystery, make sure you mention it the first time the character sees it during the story. If your story is set on a ship, make sure to clarify whether it’s a wooden Viking ship or a modern cruise ship. These details can help place the overall setting and time period for your story as well.

These are the basics of setting. If you have any questions about this topic, please leave them in the comments; and I’ll try to answer them either as a reply or in my Q&A on Saturday.

Discussion Questions:

Feel free to answer these in the comments if you want to chime in!

1) Is there a story whose setting you really like? What is it?

2) Do you like stories that take place in modern time periods, or do you like stories that take place in the past or future?

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