Setting Includes the Time Period Place and of a Story
Plot and setting are two essential elements of storytelling. Read tips, examples and exercises to make time and identify drive story evolution:
What are plot and setting?
Plot is the sequence of related events in a story. Information technology tells us what happens, when, and why. What
E.1000. Forster describes the departure between ‘story’ and ‘plot’ as the manner
plot tells, implies (or asks us to decide for ourselves) the reasons for events:
The king died and so the queen died is a story. The king died, and and so queen died of grief is a plot.
Forster in Colin Bulman,
Creative Writing: A Guide and Glossary to Fiction Writing, p. 165
Setting is the context, the where and when, of a story. It supplies the story’s backdrop, time menses, mood and atmosphere. It’south besides
a shaping factor in plot, in what happens.
Plot vs setting: What’s the deviation?
We often think of plot and setting as two singled-out elements of stories. Pediaa for example describes the difference between plot vs setting thus:
The main difference between plot and setting is that the plot is the series of events and happenings in the story whereas the setting is the backdrop of the story, characterized by the time and the place the story takes place.
Pediaa, bachelor here.
setting is much more than backdrop. It’s oftentimes
a fundamental agent in how the plot evolves. Hither’s how to ensure setting contributes to your story’southward development:
How to use setting to drive your story:
- Change setting to drive plot
- Use setting to define the (im)possible
- Utilise time for possibilities and obstacles
- Remember virtually large and small scales
- Use multiple settings for varied conflicts
one. Change setting to drive plot
The ‘five W’s’ of story is a concept we often return to. These are ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘where’ and ‘when’. Plot and setting involve at to the lowest degree three – the ‘why’ (plot) every bit well as the ‘where’ and ‘when’ (setting).
A change of setting is a simple and effective tool to develop your plot. When you start a story with the subheading ‘Downtown Tokyo’ and the next chapter’s subheading is ‘Central Australia’, at that place’southward already an implied ‘why’:
Why has the focus shifted to
Changing setting does a lot more than stoke curiosity. Permit’s look at a archetype case:
The Iii Little Pigs.
Plot and Setting in
The Three Niggling Pigs
The plot of the classic legend is simple:
A wolf goes after three fiddling pigs. It threatens to huff and puff and blow their houses down. The commencement ii pigs have used shoddy building materials (harbinger and sticks) and become wolf food. The third grunter worked harder, using bricks, and thus outsmarts the wolf.
For each hog’southward segment of the story the setting (or location) changes.
The wolf is exterior the straw house. And so the stick house. Then the brick firm.
Each location supplies fundamental setting changes: Different house (where), different building materials (what), different porcine inhabitant (who is nowadays).
create the narrative tension we demand to become invested.
The reader asks:
setting change the consequence? The wolf’due south success the first 2 times creates farther suspense, a sense of dread regarding the third pig’s likely fate.
The changes to each setting – the house’southward building materials – are minimal. Yet
they are significant plenty to make a similar plot pattern
(the huffing and the puffing)
have an unknown, suspenseful outcome.
The setting changes bulldoze the story towards the 3rd, triumphant event
(the wolf’s defeat).
Writing exercises to drive plot by changing setting
Attempt these exercises:
An experienced detective is chasing a suspected serial killer across the globe. In the commencement ii cities he stops in, the suspect gives him the sideslip. In the third, a unique aspect of the urban center gives the detective the upper mitt. Describe what makes the third city different in a paragraph describing this scenario.
Childhood friends go to Las Vegas where a shared experience makes them determine to become a terminal minute wedlock earlier they go out, to the schock of their friends. Describe the nighttime out in Vegas and how the setting makes them observe a romantic dimension to their friendship.
[Go step-past-pace prompts to develop your cadre setting and build your story’s world in the At present Novel dashboard.]
2. Use setting to define the (im)possible
Plot and setting are related in some other crucial way:
what is possible, and what is incommunicable.
Information technology’s a creative exercise for thinking about plot and setting. Thinking about identify as a constraint or limitation (‘yous’re grounded on the ground/when you osculation it’s forever’).
Turning to novels, in Barbara Kingsolver’s
The Poisonwood Bible, the idea of setting-equally-constraint arrives early in the story of a missionary family moving to the Congo. Leah Price, one of the sisters, narrates:
We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle. My sisters and I were all counting on having one birthday apiece during our twelve-month mission. ‘And sky knows’, our mother predicted, ‘they won’t have Betty Crocker in the Congo’.
The Poisonwood Bible
(1998), p. 15.
The change of setting from Bethlehem, Georgia in the USA to the Congo (already a strong hook) is accompanied past a sense of the impossibilities – the breaks with their onetime life – the family’s new setting brings.
This setting alter
provides a constraint from which the plot may so develop.
Retrieve of how varying settings in your story volition:
- Provide characters with new possibilities (what
- Create new impossibilities (what will non or cannot occur, given the fourth dimension and place?)
These are fundamental questions to genres such as run a risk stories and time travel narratives where plot and setting are strongly linked.
Writing exercises: Using setting equally a plot constraint
Describe a grapheme entering their residence on Mars for the start time. They look effectually and look out the window and realise iii things they’ll miss near world. Describe these 3 things in the grade of a paragraph or two. Terminate with them realizing something they accept to look forwards to, too.
A child grows upwards confined to a single room (this idea taken from Emma Donoghue’south
Room). Write ii paragraphs. In the first, describe the worst 24-hour interval they can retrieve from the past year. In the second, describe the best solar day.
iii. Utilize time for possibilities and obstacles
In the examples from
The Iii Little Pigs
The Poisonwood Bible,
nosotros examined plot and setting in terms of changes and constraints in the ‘where’ of a story.
‘When’ is equally important in examining how setting drives plot.
For example, during World War II, many women held work positions that in pre-war periods were often reserved for men. A setting constraint (fewer men being around) meant less fuss was made near sure work being ‘inappropriate’ for women.
This example reminds us of i of the ways
broad time elements of setting: era, background historical events – may shape what is possible for your character, plot-wise.
Call back nigh:
- What is possible for your characters in the era in which y’all set up your story and what is impossible
- What obstacles elements of fourth dimension create (whether it is the century, yr, flavour, calendar month, solar day or fourth dimension of day)
Writing exercises: Using fourth dimension to drive plot
Imagine a woman who went to work in a munitions factory during Earth War II telling her grandchildren well-nigh her memories. Write their dialogue.
Include her clarification of something that’s changed since those days, and something she’s looking forward to that wouldn’t accept been possible back then.
A male child who knows little almost geography is travelling away for the outset time, from the northern hemisphere to the south. It’south summer where he lives and he’s packing his suitcase when his best friend tells him it’ll be winter there.
Write a paragraph of narration describing his disappointment and the things he was planning to do during his southern hemisphere summer.
4. Think about large and small scales
Think of setting in your story similar a map. It has scale.
This element of setting – the fashion setting telescopes betwixt the large-scale and the minute detail – is useful to keep in listen when plotting.
For the example in the previous section, nosotros discussed Earth State of war II and changes it brought to western society around work and gender.
This is a ‘large scale’ upshot of setting on plot. A large-scale shift in an surface area of life (social structure, the gender makeup of urban centers) created other possibilities.
While large-scale setting changes such as these are occurring, change occurs on a smaller scale too.
For case, on an individual factory level, possibly groups of women come up together to challenge gender issues in the workplace. A large-calibration alter in society ripples out, with related modest-scale changes individually paving the fashion for new events.
In your story:
- Identify big-scale setting changes (eastward.g. wars, country formations, ecology renewal or catastrophe). What plot developments do these setting elements make possible?
- Then examine related modest changes. For example, if there are wildfires raging across a country, how practice pocket-sized communities come up to each others aid? What new developments occur every bit a result of this backdrop in these communities?
Writing exercises for plot and setting – balancing multiple scales
A fictional kingdom is preparing for war with a neighboring kingdom that wants resources on the border for its ain. In a paragraph, describe a decree issued by 1 kingdom in lodge for war preparations to commence.
In a second paragraph, narrate an ordinary denizen’southward desires and fears relating to the decree, and what they plan to practice side by side.
2 years of drought in a fictional town come to an terminate and it rains all winter. In a paragraph, characterize a politician’s thoughts well-nigh the speech they’ll make about this proficient fortune. Next, narrate a local farmer’due south feelings, his plans for the next month, and his hopes for the next yr.
5. Utilize multiple settings for varied conflicts
Disharmonize is a crucial element of plot. This is another area where plot and setting intertwine.
The elementary example of
The Three Little Pigs
nosotros began with showed how similar settings can incorporate tiny differences that shift the event of similar plot patterns, similar conflicts.
Taking your story to multiple places
enables yous to find varied sources of conflict.
These, in turn, help you to create a varied plot with multiple founts of suspense.
For case, your character may confront elements of conflict:
- At domicile (e.g. A bullying or disgruntled spouse)
- In the workplace (such as a powerhouse colleague who feels insecure or threatened)
- At a passing location (e.g. they explode at a fellow shopper at the grocery store due to one of the ongoing background conflicts mentioned above)
Assigning core conflicts to specific settings is a useful fashion to brand each location in your story become an agent of modify for your character.
Not every setting requires a significant disharmonize, of form, merely finding possible conflicts will help you lot pinpoint what about each setting prompts change.
The character who is bullied at home may decide to go solo. The graphic symbol who has a toxic work environment may seek greener pastures. The altercation in the store may make them realize everything they’ve been bottling up and start creating positive changes.
Remember: Modify makes a story interesting.
Writing exercises for making settings’ conflicts drive plot
A graphic symbol is sick of a disharmonize in her electric current life (in home, at work, wherever she spends a lot of time). She signs up for a one-way ticket to live on Mars. However, when she gets there, a whole new disharmonize tries her patience. Narrate her reasons for leaving and the reasons for her regrets. 500 words.
A 13-twelvemonth-erstwhile boy starts acting out at school. Their concerned English teacher takes them aside after form and asks them nigh a fight with another class mate. Draw the conflict through dialogue and cease with the male child revealing something most his home life that contributed to his reaction to the school situation.
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Setting Includes the Time Period Place and of a Story