Hello Virtually Readers! This is technically not my week but I didn’t write a post yesterday so I thought I would now. Basically, I started thinking about setting because of our Bookish Planet feature (see Part I and Part II ) so now you will be subjected to my analysis of setting.
What is a setting?
If you don’t know what a setting is, firstly, I am very surprised. It’s kind of an important part of a book. Anyway, a setting is the time and place in which a story occurs. I’m going to analyse and give examples of 5 important aspects of setting.
This is the most important aspect of setting. It helps you to know what the time and place that the scene is occurring is like. Is it dark? Is it in a park, or inside a house, or in a car. Without description, the story might as well be occurring in a white box. And if it is happening in a white box, then what is that like? Description could say how high the boxes walls are, and what is inside the box, and how it feels to be in the box.
This is kind of like a subset of description but just go with it. Detail is important because it makes the setting unique. Right now I am sitting at a table. That’s a description, but it’s pretty boring. But if I say that I’m witting at a long wooden table made of several polished planks with a window on one side shining morning light onto my fingers, then this generic table becomes more unique. Basically, by being specific, detail makes a setting unique.
- No infodumping
While my table description before was very detailed and descriptive, it was also a bit boring. Nothing was happening. Suppose in a book, the amount of words used to describe various aspects of setting take up 3 chapters (and honestly, it’s probably more) If a book used it’s first three chapeters just on setting, I would get bored, no matter how good the details and descriptions are. You want details and descriptions, but setting, in my opinion, is a need-to know basis. If I don’t need to know what the battlefield where the finale takes places is like at the beginning of the book is, don’t tell me. I won’t care, and also I might forget it. Dispersing the details and descriptions with plot is very important to avoid boredom.
- Showing, not telling
This is something that is used a lot in writing, but I’m going to talk about it as a reader. Being shown what the setting is like rather than told makes the setting feel so much more real. Let’s look at the table example. I described the table, but it was very tell-y. If I said ‘Shar dropped her cereal bowl with a bang on to the table. She traced the lines where the polish had worn off with her finger as she hastily ate her cornflakes. ‘ This isn’t perfect, but it’s not just plain statements about what the table looks like. (I’m not a great writer, and so this isn’t going to be the best example)
So far I’ve mainly talked about the ‘place’ aspect of setting. But let’s talk about time. My little sister watches a show occasionally called Dinosaur Train. I think it amuses her, which is good, but I personally find it very silly because dinosaurs happened millions of years ago. Steam trains happened about two hundred years ago. It makes no sense. A good setting should be realistic. If the characters have to walk 5 kilometres, it’s got to take time. And places also look different at different times. A good setting should have a reasonable progression of time, and attention to detail should include how the time of day is making the place look as well as the era (if it’s in the real world) affects the place.
What settings do you like? Does this makes sense? Is it all really obvious? What have I missed?