The setting is where and when the story takes place. What is the most interesting setting you have found in a work of fiction? A battlefield? A haunted house? Another planet? Some of the best fiction ever written takes place in the most hum-drum environments: a suburban house, a farm, a small village. The eighteenth-century writer, Xavier de Maistre, wrote a travel book set entirely in his bedroom, where he was confined for weeks after being wounded in a duel.

See how much you know about 'setting' by trying this quiz on the subject.

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  1. What is meant by a novel or story's setting?
  2. A story set in a darkening wood, amid the howl of wolves, with an ancient castle just visible between flashes of lightning would be most likely to belong to which genre?
    Although a good author could surprise readers by using this as a setting for an unexpected story genre, the most likely genres to use this setting would be gothic, horror, fable, fairy tale, mystery or romance
  3. A story set in a deserted wasteland created as the result of human greed, warfare, or ecological disaster would be most likely to belong to which genre?
    A 'utopia' is the ideal society, in which everything is perfect. Its opposite is 'dystopia' - a work of 'dystopian' fiction will be set in a miserable, harsh, fearful, oppressive future society
  4. How is setting described in a play?
    As an example, Shakespeare's The Tempest begins: 'ACT 1, Scene 1 - On a Ship at Sea'
  5. Jack London's short story, 'To Build a Fire' begins: 'Day had broken cold and grey, exceedingly cold and grey, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little travelled trail led eastward...' Which of the following could NOT be true of this setting?
    Even if you do not know where the Yukon is (Western Canada), the word 'trail' clearly shows that the story does not begin on a highway
  6. The story 'Girl' begins with this line: 'Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the colour clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don't walk barehead in the hot sun; cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil...' Which setting is the most likely for this story?
    The author, Jamaica Kincaid, sets much of her fiction in the West Indies
  7. Ray Bradbury's story 'August 2002: Night Meeting' begins: 'Before going on up into the blue hills, Tomas Gomez stopped for gasoline at the lonely station.' Where would you expect this story to be set?
  8. In question 7, which words hint at the setting?
    Hills often appear to have a bluish tinge at dusk - but, in this context, 'blue' hints at a surprise
  9. Within a few sentences, it transpires that the reader's initial assumption about Bradbury's setting is wrong. Which of the following sentences taken from the story communicates the surprise?
    'August 2002: Night Meeting' is set on the planet Mars. The futuristic story (written in 1950) imagined a time when humans had colonised Mars
  10. Which of the following best describes the effect of Bradbury's opening?

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