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Chapter 13. Tell Me a Story: Narration > Narrative Building Blocks - Pg. 146

Tell Me a Story: Narration 146 The Curtain Rises: Setting I lay there in the grass and cool shade thinking about things and feeling rested and ruther comfortable and satisfied. I could see the sun out at one or two holes, but mostly it was big trees all about, and gloomy in there amongst them. There was freckled places on the ground where the light sifted down through the leaves, and the freckled places swapped about a little, showing there was a little breeze up there. A couple of squirrels set on a limb and jabbered at me very friendly. --Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapter VIII The setting of a story is the time and place where the events unfold. You can establish the setting directly or suggest it from details in the story. In this excerpt from Huck Finn, you can infer that Huck is outside from these details: "grass and cool shade," "big trees," and "little breeze." You can also provide clues to the setting in the characters' speech, clothing, or means of transportation. Huck's speech--words such as "ruther" (for "rather") and "there was freckled places" (for "there were ...") --suggests that Huck is a country lad in the mid-nineteenth century. The setting is more than a mere backdrop to the action. Rather, it serves to underscore the action and theme. In some narratives, the setting can even function as a character, as in Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The Mississippi River may not say anything, but it's as important as any of the characters with speaking roles! Consider your settings carefully when you plot a short story or other narrative. The Meaning of Life: Theme Writer's Block Don't confuse the theme with the topic; the former is a broad statement about reality; the latter, the subject of the narrative. A theme might be "War is hell"; the subject, World War II. Effective narratives do more than entertain; they often suggest a truth about life, a theme . This observation touches a cord within your readers and makes your story memorable. It can even help lift your writing to the level of Art. Here are some sample themes: · · · · · People are capable of great heroism when put to the test. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The world is a lonely and bitter place. You can't recapture the past. It's a dog-eat-dog world. You can state the story's theme directly in the story, or have readers infer it from details about plot, characters, and setting. The choice is yours.