How to Use Setting
When it comes to the setting, strong descriptions help readers create a good picture in their minds and strong descriptive details will make the story more interesting. But, setting can also be written into a story by using clues. Depending on the storyline and what aspect is most important, clues can be used to help guide the reader.
Creating and writing settings is the same as using imagery – you are creating a picture for the readers by pulling on the senses- and this will help them understand the events in the story.
- Decide on your storyline- What and who is the story about?
- Ask yourself: Where does the story take place? What are the physical characteristics of that place?
The dog was limping.
We have no idea why the dog was limping. What kind of dog? Is it young or old? Where is it?
Now add in details that give the time and place.
The old black Labrador was limping as he climbed up the rocks, trying to keep up with his master.
With added setting details, it’s easy to see that the dog was limping because he was old (time) and he was in a rocky area outside (place). Because he’s older and trying to keep up with his owner outside, he is tired out, which has caused him to have sore legs or feet. We can almost feel the dog’s pain and visualize this loyal pet trying to keep up.
The boy was embarrassed, so he walked out. His friend came after him, saying he was sorry.
Again, we have no idea what’s going on. Why was he embarrassed? Where are they? What’s happening?
Let’s add in details of the setting to give context to the events.
The small, five-year-old boy was embarrassed when his pants ripped, so walked out of the classroom. His friend came after, saying he was sorry for pulling his chair out.
By adding details, we now know that he’s at school, so it’s during the day (time). He was in his classroom with other students (place). His friend pulled out his chair as he sat down, which caused him to fall and rip his pants. He’s embarrassed that all his school friends saw this happen. The social setting of his classroom (environment) explains the embarrassment – no one likes to look foolish in front of their classmates. He’s five (time), so is still learning to control his emotions.
Remember, using setting is simply adding in the where and when of events in a story. Picture the scene in your head, then write down what you see, using as many details as you can.
Additionally, setting can be used in symbolic ways. A story about a young girl may use descriptive details of her bedroom or home (place) to symbolize her innocence: white furniture, soft pinks and greens for furnishings, and pictures of animals and flowers on her walls. On the other hand, a setting that features bad weather and dead plants (environment), with buildings that are falling apart (place), and at night (time) may symbolize the abuse and neglect a character in the story is facing.
When to use Setting
Setting should be used whenever a story begins, has a change in the events, or readers need information to understand characters’ actions. Setting is also used to create a mood (making the reader or viewer feel an emotion). Mystery stories may keep the setting hidden to keep readers guessing. Once the answer is revealed, the setting will be made clear. Clues of the setting might also guide readers to the answer. Scary stories use setting to create fear (mood) in the reader or viewer.
The beginning of the story, the exposition, is used to set up the story line or plot. This is the section that tells readers the two parts of setting (where the story is taking place, what time period it is) and the characters in the story. The setting is vital to helping the reader understand what is happening and why.
If the story changes location or time period, the setting must be described again so that readers can understand the next set of plot events. If you want the reader to feel a certain emotion, you need to use a lot of description to show the setting.