When asked to write something about setting, for an essay or an exam, what exactly are we being asked to describe?

At the junior high level, setting is made up of two things: TIME and PLACE.

But a more sophisticated understanding of setting involves different things to write about:

  1. PERIOD – a story’s place in time
  2. DURATION – a story’s length through time
  3. LOCATION – a story’s place in space
  4. LEVEL OF CONFLICT – the story’s position on the hierarchy of human struggles. If ‘time and place’ refers to temporal and physical location, this refers to the social one. What’s going on in the wider world of the story, politically, socially, environmentally…?

Using those four aspects, think about the setting of your favourite TV show at the moment.

I’m going to write about Breaking Bad.

  1. PERIOD – The first season aired 2008, and the story is set in either that year or very close to that year.
  2. DURATION – Although the series has taken 6 years to watch due to the time it takes to produce a series, the duration of the story is 2 years.
  3. LOCATIONAlbuquerque, New Mexico; Mexico; in the homes of Walt, Jesse, Hank; in factories and small local businesses
  4. LEVEL OF CONFLICT – At a time when teachers aren’t paid enough to support a family, when health care is unaffordable to those working in the caring professions, when methamphetamine use is causing criminal harm and much victimization.