The setting is both the time and geographic location within a narrative, either nonfiction or fiction. A literary element, the setting helps initiate the main backdrop and mood for a story. Setting has been referred to as story world 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.
Setting is an important element in a narrative and in some works 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 and novelist Donna Levin has described how this social milieu shapes the characters’ values. The elements of the story setting include the passage of time, which may be static in some stories or dynamic in others with, for example, changing seasons.
A setting can exist in three basic forms. One is the natural world, or in an "outdoor" place. In this setting, the natural landscapes of the world play an important part in a narrative, along with living creatures and different times of weather conditions and seasons. The second form exists as the cultural and historical background in which the narrative resides. Past events that have impacted the cultural background of characters or locations are significant in this way. The third form of a setting is a public or private place that has been created/maintained and/or resided in by people. Examples of this include a house, a park, a street, a school, etc.
Setting may take various forms:
- Alternate history
- Campaign setting
- Constructed world
- Fantasy world
- Fictional city
- Fictional country
- Fictional crossover
- Fictional location
- Fictional universe
- Future history
- Imaginary world
- Mythical place
- Parallel universe
- Planets in science fiction
- Simulated reality
- Virtual reality
- British regional literature
- Index of fictional places
- List of fictional universes
- 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
- Roberts, Edgar V.; Zweig, Robert (2014), Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, Pearson, ISBN 9780321944788
- 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