What is a Setting?

At the start of my own story, I would like to make my first theory post about the start of any story, the setting. The Oxford Dictionary term for setting is as follows ” a set of surroundings; the place at which something happens “ This is a great way to briefly describe what a setting is. To explain it further in the terms of a story, it is a time or place where a story is set. It can further describe; Weather, immediate surroundings, or even a mood of a story.

What is the purpose of a setting? Simply, it sets the scene for the story. It gives a backdrop to a story. It establishes a location where a character is in a story. By describing the setting in greater detail, the reader can start to fully immerse themselves in a story. If an author greatly utilises light and weather in their work, they use a technique called “Pathetic fallacy” Where the weather represents the mood of a character.

A scene of pathetic fallacy that I will review is in the opening scene of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M27FwMENSMM Link to the scene) The scene starts with the opening credits. the background is dark and cloudy, the once golden Warner Bros logo is now a dark metal. This sets the whole tone of the film and continues on the dark tone from the ending of the previous film. As the Title card appears on screen, the main theme from Harry Potter plays. However, it isn’t as filled with wonder and feels more grounded and darker.

After zooming into a light behind the title card, the scene is starting to be set up. The bright sky, along with earthy colours give a warm, dry, humid feeling. As the camera pans down, the main colour that can be seen is tones of yellow and orange, still reflecting the heat of the scene. This tells the viewer that it is most likely the middle of summer. continuing the shot, we see barren fields and shots of the main character, Harry, walking and sitting alone. This reflects the character and his mood. At this point, he hasn’t had a letter from his friends for months, He has been living with his Aunt, Uncle, and his cousin who have always isolated him, and before the summer, he went through a tragic experience that left him feeling alone. The setting of the barren scene, not only gives the time of year and place. but also reflects Harry’s feelings and emotions.

As the scene continues. Harry’s cousin, Dudley, taunts our main character. Harry reacts to his taunts in a negative way, and his main mood shifts from focusing on his isolation to his despair for his lost friend, and anger towards his cousin. In this moment, the weather changes. the scene changes from the hot yellow and oranges to cold blue and greys, and a roll of thunder represent’s Harry’s anger. The scene changes the visuals so rapidly that you can feel the temperature drop.

The scene then changes once again to Harry and Dudley running down a road, While this moves away from the setting slightly, the camera work and character’s expressions change from anger to fear, setting the scene for the Dementor attack that comes next.

Moving on from how a setting can show emotion and tone of media, we can talk about why a setting is important to a plot. Without a setting, there is no place for a story to take place. By establishing a setting quickly and effectively, we can start to picture the world that story takes place in. Whether it is the cold cobbles of a medieval town, or the colossal concrete towers of modern life. The setting immediately sets the tone and theme for your whole story. Describing and establishing the setting should be the first thing in media. Even if it’s the start of the book, A scene change, or time change.

To conclude, A setting is the most important way to start a story. Without a good basis for a setting, the character won’t seem as grounded in the scenes. and the consumer of the media might misinterpret the feel of the story. In addition, through the use of Pathetic Fallacy, a setting can be used to explore characters and their emotions.


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