Mushtaque B Barq

Setting creates a mood and initiates backdrop in fiction writing

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In the narrative or work of fiction Setting describes time and geographical location; it also includes historical period, social status, weather, immediate surrounding and culture. Setting vividly explains backdrop and mood of the story line. It also enhances foreshadow events, invoke an emotional response, reflect the society in which the characters live, and sometimes even plays a part in the story. Generally setting explains: social environment, place and time. Depending upon the needs, setting can be fictional _ as author’s imagination, real or a combination of both. Setting covers four areas: Time, Place, Mood and Context. Setting is neither a concern about description, nor a about ‘scenery’. It directs the attention of a reader to signify the details of the character.

It answers: Where, When and What. Eudora, an American short story writer and novelist writes “Place is the crossroads of circumstances, that provide ground of What happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming? She goes on describing that setting is created by language. Setting adds new dimension to the meaning and action. Setting is the context in which the story takes place with regarding to time. Four time frame are generally used by writers: author time, it covers the time of work being originally written and published, narrator time, it covers narrates the story, plot time , it signifies when the action depicted actually takes place; and reader or audience time , it is when a reader reads the work or sees it performed. Time can cover many areas, such as the character’s time of life, the time of day, time of year, time period such as the past, present, or future, etc. Place also covers a lot of areas, such as a certain building, room in a building, country, city and beach. Place often reflects societal norms besides emphasizing theme, a symbol, plot and reflects on element of the lives of the character. Place can range from region, to locale or to a single room. Weather too serves a great purpose in knowing the mood of the character, the impact of the situation and serves as a mysterious element in the background.

According to acclaimed novelist Richard Russo, if you’re not writing stories that occur in a specific place, you’re missing the opportunity to add depth and character to your writing. She further writes: settings cannot have character; they can be a character to function as a catalyst to mold the traditional characters to create ‘forward movement’.  “The more specific and individual things become, the more universal they feel,” says Russo. The setting adds to character’s emotion, tendencies and skills, thereby brings at fore “ emotional landscape” of a character for the reader/ viewers  to create better understanding of the character. Six ways of making short story setting clear: Use detail, learn from other sources, make vital plot, show effect of time, and use symbolism and evoke senses.

Forms of setting

  1. Alternate history: – Alternate history has been seen as a subgenre of literary fiction, science fiction, or historical fiction. Another term occasionally used for the genre is “allohistory”
  2. Campaign setting: – It is usually a game world which serves as a setting for a role-playing game or war-game campaign. A campaign is a series of individual adventures, and a campaign setting is the world in which such adventures and campaigns take place

III.   Constructed world:-   World building is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. The resulting world may be called a constructed world

  1. Dystopia: – It is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening. Dystopian societies appear in many sub-genres of fiction and are often used to draw attention to real-world issues
  2. Fantasy world: – It is a human conceived world created in fiction media, such as literature, film or games. Typical fantasy worlds involve magic or magical abilities, nonexistent technology and sometimes, either a historical or futuristic theme. Some worlds may be a parallel world tenuously connected to Earth via magical portals.
  3. Fictional city/ country/ Universe: – It refers to a town, city , village , country or universe that is invented for fictional stories and does not exist in real life, or which people believe to exist without definitive proof.

VII.  Fictional location/ mythical places :-  Fictional locations and mythical places are also created for use as settings in role-playing games

VIII.        Future history: – It is a postulated history of the future and is used by authors of science fiction and other speculative fiction to construct a common background for fiction.

  1. Parallel universe/ Planets in Science fiction :- It is a hypothetical self-contained reality co-existing with one’s own mind.
  2. Simulated / Virtual reality :- It could contain conscious minds which may or may not be fully aware that they are living inside a simulation while as It could contain conscious minds which may or may not be fully aware that they are living inside a simulation
  3. Utopia :- It is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens

The Fundamental Elements of Setting

  1. Locale. It covers an extensive range of location from country to its interior.
  2. Time of year. Time of year, season, anniversary or dates of festivals help a fiction writer to create an atmosphere of reminiscence.
  3. Time of day. The time of day: dawn, noon, afternoon, twilight, night and mid night creates a type of mood which most of the fiction writers use to charge their scene with the kind of stage in the background to generate better diffusion.
  4. Elapsed time. It enables a writer to set momentum in the story and sets a time span between the scenes.
  5. Mood and atmosphere. Most of the time, a fiction writer is carried on by the weather that he immediately transfers into his characters who are equally affected by it. Moods are usually depicted through atmosphere. Sometimes climate in itself influences the scene.
  6. Natural Geography and Man- made Geography. Both refer to specific aspects of topography. Most of the times such geography is created by the fiction writer to suit his needs like man-made destructiveness to highlight the impact of infiltration or creating a burial ground, cities, streets and towns.
  7. Eras of historical importance. Scenes of civil wars, World Wars, mythical wars and star wars are created to link the audience with history.
  8. Ancestral influences. At times a scene demands ancestral influence which is depicted to create a general outlook which is displayed either by keeping a fare in the background or likewise.

Types of Setting

  1. Backdrop Setting: – It is a kind of setting which is not an integral part of the story. It only presents a view in the background and does not interfere in the plot but signifies lesson or message being delivered. Many fairy tales and children’s stories have backdrop settings.
  2. Integral Setting: – It controls the character and influences the theme and action of a story. With an integral setting, the time and place are important to the story. For example, a story dealing with a historical setting will have a direct impact on the plot.
  3. Setting as symbolism: – A symbolic setting operates both connotatively and denotatively to make a scene speak for itself. This sets the scene for alternate habitations – phantom, deranged killers and other ‘unhomely’, ominous figures.

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