Setting: Resulting Effects

Passage of Time

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It’s easy to think of the setting as strictly where a story is taking place, but the when is a big part of it too. Since most stories play out over time, in and out of days, months, and even years, it isn’t difficult for readers to become confused about how much time has gone by. Expressing this passage of time is easy if you’ve written a certain kind of story—one in which dated diary entries or newspaper headlines play a part, or one that contains a countdown of some kind. But in most cases, letting readers know when in the story they are requires more subtlety. Luckily, this can be accomplished with a few setting tricks.

For stories that cover long periods of time, chapter or section breaks can be used to jump from one time to another. In this way, seasons, months of the year, common holidays, or the weather can be used to show readers how much time has passed and “when” it is now. For instance, chapter 27 of Anne of Green Gables occurs in winter. But chapter 28 opens with this:

        Marilla, walking home one late April evening from an Aid meeting, realized that the winter was over and gone with the thrill of delight that spring never fails to bring to the oldest and saddest as well as to the youngest and merriest.


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