Location, location, location III

Picture it, map it, name it. Your setting is compete, right?

Remember what I said in my first post on setting? https://scribbleywhile.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/location-location-location/
I said setting is an umbrella term.

Students-gather-outside-t-003

In truth, setting is more than just buildings.

  • Think of where you live- your country. You have a government, people are in charge. That affects your whole life. It affects your culture. You may not agree with your government’s politics. This may lead to civil war, conflict, protests. This will inevitably affect the setting of your story, because it will change the mood of the place you’re writing about.
    For example, you might be writing about a nice middle class area- and that’s great. Except the government’s just increased taxes and their finances have suddenly shrunk. All of a sudden your nice middle class area is a wee bit bitter. Perhaps you could reflect this change in mood by making your whole setting darker- maybe use pathetic fallacy and have frequent thunder storms to represent the anger currently residing in the location.
  • The setting isn’t just affected by the mood and politics of the whole country. Think of the town or village or wherever it is you live. There are kind of local politics, culture and rules, right?
    There are the two married neighbours in your street that are having an affair, yet no one acknowledges it. There’s the rougher area of town that everyone avoids after dark. There’s the general consensus, perhaps, that education isn’t important and you’ll follow your dad into plumbing. Or maybe education is hugely important, really valued, and the kid over the road who just scraped a C is widely viewed as a failure.
    This again affects your setting. For example, one of my characters, Bronwyn, is mixed-race, living in a white middle class area. People’s attitudes towards her aren’t great, which means Bronwyn’s opinion of the whole area is pretty low. There is a lot of racial tension, so what is a nice area for the majority of the residents, is a hellhole for Bronwyn.
    Another example: Bronwyn lives in the middle class part of her village, while Richard, another character, lives in the more run down estate. There is a lot of stigma attached to living in this estate- you’re a layabout, you’re scrounging off the state, not fit to be a parent etc.

If you only consider the location and name of your setting, you’re really missing out on a lot. I could tell you that my story is located in the nice, mostly middle class village of Easterly, and you wouldn’t have a clue about the racial tension and the condescending attitudes of the richer residents towards the poorer. By informing you of these nastier sides of the village, I’ve totally skewed your opinion of my story setting. When I come round to writing my story, factoring these in will make it a lot more realistic. Even if these points aren’t too related to your story, hinting at them will give your reader more perspective. It will also affect how you describe your setting from different characters’ points of view. If I write from Bronwyn’s point of view, I’ll have to consider how the setting is, for her, defined by its racism. I’ll have to tailor my description to that fact.

Summary:

  • Setting is more than just location. It includes the people and politics of that location.
  • By including these, albeit in a minor way, you make your story more realistic. You can also totally skew your readers’ impression of a place.

Hope this is helpful,
Scribbley

Picture from: http://www.theguardian.com/education/blog/2011/nov/09/student-tuition-fees-protests-live-blog

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