Importance of Setting

One of the most important aspects of any piece of written work (be it fiction, non-fiction or poetry)is the setting. Where does this story take place? There is a vast difference between the world of a beach at sunrise and a forest at midnight, just from those details alone set the tone for totally different stories.

The setting creates the entire backdrop for the story or for the poem. It is so much more than just a backdrop, it is a means of creating the entire theme, idea or mood for the rest of the work.

Now, poems are a little different than stories. Poems can exist in a world without a setting. But, that means that when settings are used it really stands out and must be for a deliberate reason.

One of the best uses of setting is using it as a reflection of the mental state of a character, a world, or a speaker. For example, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper makes amazing use of the setting. The yellow wallpaper of the room becomes a character in the story, it demands attention and totally creates the entire story.

Now, this does not mean that there ALWAYS has to be a setting. Some things can exist without a really strong setting, however, I think that a properly used setting can really make or break a story. So, how do you best use setting? Well, here are a few tips.

  1. Setting is more than what you see, don’t forget the other senses. Smell is particularly potent since that is the sense most closely associated with memory. Telling someone a room smelled of lemon ginger tea will stir totally different ideas than a room that smells like wet dog.
  2. Don’t info dump. If the fact that the purple polka dot painted post office is across the street is important than by all means describe it, but if not… drop it.
  3. Utilize time of day. There is a huge difference between dawn and dusk and all the times inbetween. Don’t be afraid to utilize these times.
  4. Make sure your word choices reflect the idea of your theme. You should never describe a haunted house and a beach cottage with the same language, make sure your setting is consistent with the rest of your story.
  5. Put the setting in your character’s head. How does he/she see the world they’re in? Even if you are not writing from that character’s point of view, it still needs to be reflective of that world. Make sure you’re consistent from plot to setting to character.

 

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1 Comment »

  1. Laura Said:

    ROFL, that cat picture made my day. Great advice about what NOT to include/do in setting.


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