We had an 11th-hour change in who would lead our writer’s group this month and it was decided we would spend the time talking about setting. I thought it was a great discussion and I wanted to share some notes with you.
The setting can encompass a lot of elements of the story. The local and physical setting is only part of it. You also must consider the time of year, time of day, and the time passing during the story. It can set a mood or establish a sociopolitical environment. It can include climate, geography (including man-made geography), historical era, population, and ancestral influences. In thinking of the last book I read, the sub-culture of Italian-American immigrants made a big impact on The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street and the historical events going on during the story had an impact on the characters in a big way.
A writer can use the setting to speak about the story. It can reinforce the mood or the characters. A cluttered office says something about a character. A dimly lit office can set a mood. Using two character’s opinions on a space can say something about their character. While one character might notice the romantic sunset, another might find the lack of lighting frustrating.
Having a vast or narrow setting can shift the focus of the book. For example, in Harry Potter, though we are involved in the Wizarding world, much of the action takes place at Hogwarts so it makes sense for the final battle to take place at Hogwarts rather than Azkaban or again at the Ministry.
To research a time period, our group recommends reading historical journal articles and trade publications from that period. A definite setting has become more important as writing is more widely distributed to different geographical areas and among several different classes who could all be different from the writer. With historical settings, the writer has a bit more freedom because there are fewer people alive to contradict the minute points of the book, but it’s still better safe than sorry.
I know this isn’t much, but it was a good discussion from us. I’ll be presenting on Lit Mag publication and Kristine Kruppa (YA Author) will be talking about finding her publisher.
Until next time, write on.