What is the Setting of a Story — Elements of Storytelling (2022)

What is the setting of a story? Is it simply the time and place of a story? Or is it something more? We’re going to look at some examples of setting in literature and film to see how writers and directors communicate time, place, and more in their works. But before we jump into some examples, let’s quickly review how setting is an integral part of every story.

Why is Setting Important?

First, let’s define setting

What are settings in a story? A setting in a story is a time and place where narrative exists; a single story can include numerous times and places — but it’s not possible for a story to exist without a setting. Because of this, we regard setting as a foundational aspect of storytelling. But what is a setting?

Well, it’s everything that suggests time and place. It’s the answer to the questions: where are we and when are we?

(Video) Story Elements for Kids: What Is a Setting?

Setting of a Story Examples • Lost - Where are We?

Some stories, such as the TV show LOST, use their setting as a plot device to drive the story forward. Now that we know the essential questions behind the question “what is a setting in a story,” let’s formally define setting.

DEFINE SETTING

What is the setting of a story?

A setting is the time and place of a story. Setting is either outwardly articulated to us, or discretely suggested to us. It can be suggested by weather, clothing, culture, buildings, etc. In screenwriting, setting is written into the slugline of a scene heading. But setting isn’t just the location of a scene, it’s the time in which it exists as well.

Characteristics of Setting

  • Time
  • Place
  • Surroundings

What is Established in the Setting of a Story?

How to communicate setting

There are many different ways that writers communicate setting. In literature, setting is communicated in two ways: dialogue, and descriptions. Of these, you’re least likely to find “setting” communicated in scene headings. That’s because it can come across as explanatory to the reader.

If a book has a lot of characters in different locations, then you may see the setting communicated in the scene heading, just as a means to remind us when and where we are in the story.

How do you find the setting in a story? Dialogue is one of the best tools to communicate setting in literature. Take this short exchange from Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants” for example:

Hills Like White Elephants

"It's pretty hot," the man said.

(Video) Story Elements: Setting

"Let's drink beer."

"Dos cervezas," the man said into the curtain.

"Big ones?" a woman asked from the doorway.

"Yes. Two big ones."

What can we infer from this exchange? Well, first we can deduce that the two characters are in a warm climate. Second, we can deduce that they’re probably in a Spanish-speaking country. These deductions don’t change the story per se, but they do help us to construct the world in an imaginative sense.

Sometimes, setting is suggested in the descriptions of a scene. Take this excerpt from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit for example:

The hobbit

IN A HOLE in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats – the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill – The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it – and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage.The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.

This example from The Hobbit expertly shows us how to communicate setting through describing the environment. Remember: the use of specificity can be the difference between a bland setting and a vibrant one.

(Video) Setting: Story Elements for Kids

Notice how Tolkien writes, “perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle” – this type of imagery allows our mind to create a visual world, just as the author intends.

Now that we’ve reviewed setting in literature, let’s review setting in screenwriting and film.

What is Included in the Setting of a Story Script?

How to write setting into scripts

As we alluded to earlier, setting is always communicated in the sluglines of a screenplay. What is a slugline? It’s essentially just the setting of a scene – and it looks something like this:

What is the Setting of a Story — Elements of Storytelling (1)

What’s the Setting of a Story? • Slugline Example

The slugline tells us whether the scene takes place inside (INT.) or outside (EXT.), and what time of day it is. The script may also tell us what year it is, depending on its relevance to the story.

We imported the Moneyball screenplay into StudioBinder’s screenwriting software to see how writers Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian communicate setting in one of the best baseball movies of all-time. You’ll notice in this first example that they communicate the year in which the scene takes place into the legend, below the scene heading and before the dialogue.

What is the Setting of a Story — Elements of Storytelling (2)

What is the Setting of a Story? • Read the Scene in Moneyball

The legend is used to communicate a specific time within a story. Just remember that it should always be written after at least one description/action line. Sometimes, the setting of a script changes on a dime. When this happens, the writers must write new slug lines and legends for each change in setting. Let’s take a look at how two master screenwriters do it.

What is the Setting of a Story — Elements of Storytelling (3)

(Video) Story Elements Part 1: Characters, Setting, and Events | English For Kids | Mind Blooming

What is the Setting of a Story? • Read the Scene in Moneyball

The rapid change of setting can create a frenetic feel for the audience, just like it does in this scene from Moneyball. Consequently, the rapid change of setting can create montages as well.

Let’s take a look at the opening scene from one of Woody Allen’s best movies, Manhattan. Pay attention to the presentation of this setting — everything from the cinematography, music, and voiceover.

Setting of a Story Examples • Manhattan

Would you say that the opening scene to Manhattan is frenetic? No! If anything, it’s more of a lullaby than a rock-song. So how does Woody Allen make the rapid change of setting feel so slow? Well, I’d say a lot of it has to do with the voiceover.

By voicing over the change of setting, he creates a narrative through-line – it’s not so much what we’re seeing that matters, it’s what he’s saying and what we’re seeing that matters.

(Video) Story Elements | What is a setting | Narrative writing

UP NEXT

What is a Metaphor?

Sometimes, settings are used as metaphors for something greater than what they actually are. But what is a metaphor? In this next article, we break down everything you need to know about metaphors, with examples from literature and film. After looking at examples of metaphors in films like Parasite and The Big Lebowski, you’ll know how to apply metaphors in your own works.

Up Next: Metaphor Examples →

FAQs

What is the setting in the elements of the story? ›

Setting is the “where and when” of a story. It is the time and place during which the story takes place.

What is setting explain the importance of setting in a short story? ›

Setting is one of the five essential elements of a story. It establishes the mood, reveals characters and conflicts, and gives clues to a story's theme. In this video, we'll see how time and place can do more than just give context. Also from Flocabulary: Types of Triangles.

What is the setting of a story example? ›

Also known as backdrop, a story setting can be drawn from imagination or based on historic events, as well as geographical locations in the real world (such as a specific city, or the house of a character). For example, The Martian by Andy Weir is set in space, in the future.

What is setting and example? ›

Setting refers to the location of the story-in time and in place. Examples of Setting: A story about a young girl who experiences bullying at school is set in a suburb of Atlanta, GA in the 1980s. A story about the Civil War is set in the rural south in early 1860s.

What are the elements of the story answer? ›

These five components are: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. These essential elements keep the story running smoothly and allow the action to develop in a logical way that the reader can follow.

What is the purpose of setting? ›

The Importance of Setting. Setting gives context to the characters' actions in a story line. It can also create the mood (how the reader or viewer feels). It's easier to understand why the characters in the story are doing what they're doing when we know where the they are.

What is a setting description? ›

Setting is an environment or surrounding in which an event or story takes place. The setting description allows readers to picture where the story is taking place in their minds whilst they read.

What is called setting? ›

Definition of setting

1 : the manner, position, or direction in which something is set. 2 : the frame or bed in which a gem is set also : style of mounting. 3a : the time, place, and circumstances in which something occurs or develops. b : the time and place of the action of a literary, dramatic, or cinematic work.

What are types of setting? ›

Lesson Summary. Students are familiar with the four types of setting: physical, social, historical and psychological. Students have been given the opportunity to explore examples of each setting.

How do you use setting in a sentence? ›

"The play was based in a rural setting." "I enjoy an outdoor setting." "The discussion took place in a public setting." "The machine was set to a high setting."

What are settings and characters? ›

Characters: The people or animals in a story. Setting: The place where a story happens.

What are the 5 elements of storytelling? ›

  • Character. Characters are the people (or animals, or even inanimate objects) who have a role to play in the story. ...
  • Conflict. Conflict is the problem in the story. ...
  • Plot. Plot is what happens in the story. ...
  • Setting. Setting is where your story takes place. ...
  • Theme. Theme is the main idea of your story.
11 Aug 2022

What are the 7 elements of a story and their meaning? ›

You can turn the slightest concept into a gripping tale by mastering the seven essential elements of a story — theme, characters, setting, plot, conflict, point of view, and style. To help you better understand how stories come together, here are seven elements you'll find in almost any story: 1. Theme.

How do you teach the setting of a story? ›

Story Elements for Kids: What Is a Setting? - YouTube

What is an example of a story element? ›

Example: Romeo and Juliet's conflict is that their families are in a feud, and they are not allowed to be with each other. Setting-Narratives have a time and place where the action is set. Example: Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona, Italy. Theme-Narratives have a theme, or main idea/underlying meaning.

What are two aspects of setting? ›

Broadly defined, setting is the location of the plot, including the region, geography, climate, neighborhood, buildings, and interiors. Setting, along with pacing, also suggests passage of time. Place is layered into every scene and flashback, built of elements such as weather, lighting, the season, and the hour.

Why is setting goals important? ›

Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation . It focuses your acquisition of knowledge, and helps you to organize your time and your resources so that you can make the most of your life.

How does setting affect a character example? ›

Settings shape your character.

For example, if your rich customers in the restaurant were born in a stylish home in the city, they will probably feel at home. If the customers were born in a poverty-stricken neighbourhood and made their money winning the lottery, they will probably feel out of place.

What are the 5 elements of setting? ›

The elements of setting – time, place, mood, social and cultural context – help to make a novel feel real and alive. Read more about using the ingredients of setting to make your story more vivid: By Bridget McNulty. 3 Comments.

What is setting in a story PDF? ›

The time, place, and duration of a story, play, or novel. In some stories the setting influences the reader as well as the characters. A reader responds to the atmosphere or mood of the setting.

How do settings affect the conflict of a story? ›

The setting can be rife with problems that prevent your protagonist from solving her problems and even add to her internal conflicts. These environmental conflicts are the issues and situations that make it harder for the protagonist to face the challenges of the novel.

What is a setting of a story Wikipedia? ›

A setting (or backdrop) is the time and geographic location within a narrative, either non-fiction or fiction. It is a literary element. The setting initiates the main backdrop and mood for a story.

What is character in a story? ›

A character is any animate figure within a story.

A character's development speaks of the depth and complexity of a character. It's possible that a character starts out thoroughly developed, or it may be that the author chooses to slowly develop that character as the plot unfolds.

What is plot in a story? ›

What Is a Story Plot? The plot is what happens in a story. However, a plot is not a simple sequence of events. 1. A strong plot is centered on one moment—an interruption of a pattern, a turning point, or an action—that raises a dramatic question, which must be answered throughout the course of the story.

What is a natural setting? ›

Qualitative research is conducted in natural settings. This means qualitative researchers study things as they are. They do not manipulate the environment. For instance, there are no experimental and control groups.

What is the setting of the passage? ›

Setting. The Passage begins in the near future and details an apocalyptic and, later, post-apocalyptic world that is overrun by zombie/vampire like beings who are infected by a highly contagious virus.

Which of the following is not part of a story setting? ›

Option D is the correct answer as the language spoken by characters is not connected to the time, environment or location of a story.

What is the setting of a play? ›

Setting is the time and place an author chooses for a literary work. A setting can be a real time period and geographical location or a fictional world and unfamiliar time period.

Which is correct set up or setup? ›

Set Up – What's the Difference? Setup is one word when it is a noun (e.g., “it was a setup!”) or an adjective (e.g., “follow the setup instructions”). It is two words—set up—when it functions as a verb (e.g., “I'm going to set up the computer”).

What is the sentence of character? ›

"He is a minor character in the play." "His education shaped his character." "You've revealed your true character." "Her smile reflects a positive character."

How do you analyze a setting? ›

Three basic steps to analyze a story's setting are: Comprehend such basic details of the setting as time, season, location and sensory details. Interpret the setting by looking at its impact on the characters, obstacles or conflicts, symbolism, and gaps in time or location.

How do you write settings in writing? ›

Learn the core elements of setting, and apply them to your own writing.
...
How to Create a Vivid Setting for Your Story
  1. Use place to your advantage. Place denotes both geographical location and immediate surroundings. ...
  2. Make use of time. ...
  3. Show the world through your characters' eyes. ...
  4. Be aware of how setting affects emotions.
3 Aug 2021

What are the 4 main story elements? ›

The four elements necessary for your story structure are character, plot, setting, and tension. Balancing these elements is the first step to making your creative writing amazing.

What are the 3 basic elements of a story? ›

You can use endlessly different story structures and styles, but each story or novel is going to boil down to three fundamental elements: character, setting, and plot.

What is storytelling explain? ›

Definition. Storytelling is the vivid description of ideas, beliefs, personal experiences, and life- lessons through stories or narratives that evoke powerful emotions and insights.

What are the 12 elements of short story? ›

All great stories can be broken down into twelve essential elements.
...
The 12 elements of every great story
  • A protagonist. ...
  • An antagonist. ...
  • Setting. ...
  • Perspective. ...
  • Something to fight for. ...
  • Something to lose. ...
  • Rising action. ...
  • Falling action.
6 Jan 2022

Why is story elements important? ›

Why is this an important concept? When students can describe literary elements such as character and plot, they are better able to interpret and respond to a text. Focusing on and discussing key details of literary elements supports the understanding of the author's message and purpose.

Why are the elements of a text important to use in a literary piece? ›

One of the benefits of knowing the literary elements and then calling attention to them with your kids is that these elements help writers become intentional about how they craft their thoughts into words. Too often, mothers and educators focus on improving writing through better punctuation, grammar or format.

What are the 3 types of setting? ›

The three types of setting are the elements of time, place, and environment (both physical and social). Each of these types contributes to building the setting of a story.

Can a story have different settings? ›

(When it comes to a story's setting, there can be many different settings throughout the story and can reflect different characters or parts of the plot.

What is a setting description? ›

Setting is an environment or surrounding in which an event or story takes place. The setting description allows readers to picture where the story is taking place in their minds whilst they read.

What are the 5 elements of story writing? ›

There are 5 elements of plot:
  • Exposition.
  • Rising Action.
  • Climax.
  • Falling Action.
  • Conclusion.

What is the conflict of the story? ›

In fiction, those problems are called conflict. More precisely, conflict means thwarted, endangered, or opposing desire. It's basically when a character wants something but something else gets in the way. Maybe the character wants a thing but can't get it.

What are the types of setting? ›

The three types of setting are the elements of time, place, and environment (both physical and social). Each of these types contributes to building the setting of a story.

What are the uses of setting? ›

The Importance of Setting. Setting gives context to the characters' actions in a story line. It can also create the mood (how the reader or viewer feels). It's easier to understand why the characters in the story are doing what they're doing when we know where the they are.

What is the function of setting? ›

Setting is a literary device that allows the writer of a narrative to establish the time, location, and environment in which it takes place. This is an important element in a story, as the setting indicates to the reader when and where the action takes place.

What is setting and characters? ›

Characters: The people or animals in a story. Setting: The place where a story happens.

What is setting in a story PDF? ›

The time, place, and duration of a story, play, or novel. In some stories the setting influences the reader as well as the characters. A reader responds to the atmosphere or mood of the setting.

How do settings affect the conflict of a story? ›

The setting can be rife with problems that prevent your protagonist from solving her problems and even add to her internal conflicts. These environmental conflicts are the issues and situations that make it harder for the protagonist to face the challenges of the novel.

What is an example of a story element? ›

Example: Romeo and Juliet's conflict is that their families are in a feud, and they are not allowed to be with each other. Setting-Narratives have a time and place where the action is set. Example: Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona, Italy. Theme-Narratives have a theme, or main idea/underlying meaning.

What is the most important element in a story? ›

According to House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon, the answer is a simple one: "The most important element in a good story is conflict.

Why are the elements of a story important? ›

Why is this an important concept? When students can describe literary elements such as character and plot, they are better able to interpret and respond to a text. Focusing on and discussing key details of literary elements supports the understanding of the author's message and purpose.

What is character in a story? ›

A character is any animate figure within a story.

A character's development speaks of the depth and complexity of a character. It's possible that a character starts out thoroughly developed, or it may be that the author chooses to slowly develop that character as the plot unfolds.

What is theme in the story? ›

The term theme can be defined as the underlying meaning of a story. It is the message the writer is trying to convey through the story. Often the theme of a story is a broad message about life. The theme of a story is important because a story's theme is part of the reason why the author wrote the story.

What is plot in a story? ›

What Is a Story Plot? The plot is what happens in a story. However, a plot is not a simple sequence of events. 1. A strong plot is centered on one moment—an interruption of a pattern, a turning point, or an action—that raises a dramatic question, which must be answered throughout the course of the story.

Videos

1. The Importance of Setting in a Story
(Flocabulary)
2. Brainpop Setting 9 15
(Sara Porter)
3. STORY ELEMENTS: A COMPLETE GUIDE FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS
(Innovative Teaching Ideas)
4. "What is a Setting?": A Literary Guide for English Students and Teachers
(Oregon State University - School of Writing, Literature and Film)
5. Story Elements: Resolution
(The Contemporary Classroom)
6. The Importance of Setting in Storytelling
(Diane Callahan - Quotidian Writer)

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