Setting is the time and place of the action of a story. The setting may be
specific and detailed and introduced at the very beginning of the story,
or it may be merely suggested through the use of details scattered
throughout the story. Customs, manners, clothing, scenery, weather,
geography, buildings, and methods of transportation are all part of
The Purpose of Setting
- To get a band 1 or 2 in your composition narratives you must include, ‘detail and attention to characters and setting.’ You may also be asked to analyse a paragraph describing setting in the writer’s effect question on paper 2. But why is setting so important?
- Good writers choose particular settings, not because it is realistic or accurate, but because of what it accomplishes in the story.
- Setting is used for a number of reasons:
- The setting can provide important information about the main character, whether he or she is connected to the setting, at home in it, an outsider, or a guest.
- A setting that is vivid increases the credibility of the character and the action. If the reader accepts the setting as real, then the reader is more likely to accept the characters who live there, and their behaviour as real. On the other hand, “mistakes” in setting may cause the reader to give up on the story as “fake”. This applies to fantasy settings as well as realistic settings.
- The setting of a story often has a direct connection to the story’s meaning. For example, a description of a house can help illustrate an overall feeling of loneliness and isolation. Or the intense activity of a city setting might be linked to excitement. These feelings can be connected to a character or to the theme.
- Sometimes the setting will hold keys to understanding one of the characters. Where a person lives is often very much a part of who that person is.
- The setting can be used to create increase tention or to se the mood and atmosphere, if these are important to the story
WRITER’S EFFECT PRACTICE
Read the following description of setting from Lord of the Flies. Select words and phrases and explain how the writer created effects by using this language.
The shore was ﬂedged with palm trees. These stood or leaned or reclined against the light and their green feathers were a hundred feet up in the air. The ground beneath them was a bank covered with coarse grass, torn everywhere by the upheavals of fallen trees, scattered with decaying coconuts and palm saplings. Behind this was the darkness of the forest proper and the open space of the scar. Ralph stood, one hand against a grey trunk, and screwed up his eyes against the shimmering water. Out there, perhaps a mile away, the white surf ﬂinked on a coral reef, and beyond that the open sea was dark blue. Within the irregular arc of coral the lagoon was still as a mountain lake—blue of all shades and shadowy green and purple. The beach between the palm terrace and the water was a thin stick, endless apparently, for to Ralph’s left the perspectives of palm and beach and water drew to a point at inﬁnity; and always, almost visible, was the heat.
He jumped down from the terrace. The sand was thick over his black shoes and the heat hit him. He became conscious of the weight of clothes, kicked his shoes off ﬁercely and ripped off each stocking with its elastic garter in a single movement. Then he leapt back on the terrace, pulled off his shirt, and stood there among the skull-like coconuts with green shadows from the palms and the forest sliding over his skin