Setting (narrative)

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In works of narrative (especially fictional), the literary element setting includes the historical moment in time and geographic location in which a story takes place, and helps initiate the main backdrop and mood for a story. Setting has been referred to as story world [1] or milieu to include a context (especially society) beyond the immediate surroundings of the story. Elements of setting may include culture, historical period, geography, and hour. Along with the plot, character, theme, and style, setting is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.[2]

Role of setting[edit]

Setting is a critical component for assisting the story, as in man vs. nature or man vs. society stories. In some stories the setting becomes a character itself. The term "setting" is often used to refer to the social milieu in which the events of a novel occur.[3] Novelist and novel-writing instructor Donna Levin has described how this social milieu shapes the characters’ values.[4] For young readers in the US (K-5), the setting is often established as the "setting". As children advance, the elements of the story setting are expanded to include the passage of time which might be static in some stories or dynamic in others (e.g. changing seasons, day-and-night, etc.). The passage of time as an element of the setting helps direct the child's attention to recognize setting elements in more complex stories. Setting is another way of identifying where a story takes place.

Types of settings[edit]

Settings may take various forms:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Truby, 2007, p. 145
  2. ^ Obstfeld, 2002, p. 1, 65, 115, 171.
  3. ^ Lodge, 1992, pps. 58-60.
  4. ^ Levin, 1992, pps.110-112.


  • Levin, Donna (1992). Get That Novel Started. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 0-89879-517-6. 
  • Lodge, David (1992). The Art of Fiction. London: Martin, Secker & Warburg Ltd. ISBN 0-14-017492-3. 
  • Obstfeld, Raymond (2002). Fiction First Aid: Instant Remedies for Novels, Stories and Scripts. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 1-58297-117-X. 
  • Rozelle, Ron (2005). Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 1-58297-327-X. 
  • Truby, John (2007). Anatomy of a Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. New York, NY: Faber and Faber, Inc. ISBN 978-0-86547-951-7.