“Nothing happens nowhere.”
Setting is the where and when of the story. In other words, setting means the time and place of the story. It is usually revealed in the beginning of the story but, may change as the story progresses. Story setting is one of the fundamental requirements of the story and for me it is one of the most interesting.
Let me explain story setting with the help of a few examples.
Sidney Sheldon’s famous novel, The Stars Shine Down starts from Scotland, then moves to Chicago, New York, London and finally ends in Rome. These are the places i.e. where the story is set. Now, about the when i.e. the time- The story starts from the year 1992 but, we keep reading about earlier life of the characters so, we get to read about previous years as well. Hence, we can say the time and place can keep changing.
As a writer, it’s easy to get carried away with the flow and all the surging ideas in one’s mind but, one need to be careful about certain things while setting the story.
1. STAY TRUE TO THE CULTURE OF THE PLACE- If your story is set in London, then make sure that you give a relatively true description of the monuments, or buildings, or even the streets of that place. You cannot mention London and describe Shanghai. Your readers will automatically disconnect with the story if they find the facts misleading.
Now, you as a writer might get away if the reader has not been to either of the places mentioned in the above example but, you’ll be gravely scrutinized if the reader has either traveled or is a native to either of the places. So always do a background check of the place you want to write about in your story. If you are travelling to a new place than either keep a diary where you can note down about the cafes, markets, streets, historical monuments and anything that you find interesting or, you can click plenty of pictures which can be used in the similar manner.
Even if you come up with an imaginary city, you can get inspired from a famous city and give certain references.
You might say that you are a Science-Fiction writer and your story is based on another planet or in another universe and is born completely out of your imagination. Good. But then too, studying about different planets, galaxies and the universe as a whole might give the required wings to your imagination and you will be able to create a better place for your story.
One easy way to weed out the confusion is start off from your hometown or the city you are currently residing in. This is what I always do. You can either mention the actual name of the city you were born and brought up in or you can come up with an imaginative name but use the actual city as reference.
2 STAY TRUE TO THE TIME- If your story is set in the past, then make sure to describe the places, food, fashion and style related to that era. Do some research and get your facts straight. If your story is set in the 1960s in Britain then find out what was in and what was not. You’ll probably write about ball gowns and galas. You may also write about how arrange marriages were the traditional and more appropriate custom back then in the west as well.
If your story is set in the future, use your imagination and turn the rebel mode on. You might get something out of the box.
In other words, stay true to the time period that you want to write in. I prefer writing in the current era that we are living in. It’s easier and connects perfectly with the readers. And hey! Once your stories become a hit, people twenty years from now will also be reading them and imagining what 2020 was like J
3. STAY TRUE TO THE VOICE OF THE CHARACTER- A person of British origin will speak different from a person of Indian origin. Or a person living in Rajasthan will speak differently from a person living in Kerala. As a writer, you need to pay attention that you use the local language while giving voice to your characters. The characters voice depends upon the place and time in which the story is set.
Apart from the fashion and style, the languages also evolve over the time. For example, during the times of Shakespeare, last night was called yesternight and you was called thou and so on. Imagine somebody speaking like this- “Hey guys! Wassup?” during the times of Shakespeare. Ha! So out of place.
Why dig up the past? Your story might be set in the future. For example in the year 2459 and Earth has been finally attacked by the aliens from a planet called Bazurga. Wow! I just came up with that J You might want to experiment with the language in a completely different way.
I hope this explains what story setting is and how writers work their way within the skeleton of the setting.
If you liked this article please drop a reply. Your feedback is extremely valuable.