Setting: Techniques and Devices


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Seasons are part of the real world and therefore carry universal symbolism which we can draw on within fiction to convey special themes and ideas. When considering the time of year to set your story, think about any recurring themes and which seasons might best reinforce those ideas and feelings. Winter is often symbolic of death, endings, barrenness, and despair. Alternatively, springtime, with its newness and rebirth, is a strong backdrop for new beginnings and second chances. Youth, innocence, and coming-of-age stories are often set in summer, while autumn can represent preparedness, a focus that turns inward, or a coming change.

They vary in intensity depending on location, but each season has clearly recognized characteristics, from the changing colors of fall to the long hot days of summer. This universality means that seasons naturally lend themselves to symbolism that can set the mood for a scene or an entire story. Take this passage from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

        As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. On all sides he beheld vast stores of apples; some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees; some gathered into baskets and barrels for the market; others heaped up in rich piles for the cider-press. Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears peeping from their leafy covers and holding out the promise of cakes and hasty-pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning up their fair round bellies to the sun and giving ample prospects of the most luxurious of pies.


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