Types of Setting: Social


Last week we had the newsletter where you received some updates on where my fiction was and what you could expect this month! I hope you all enjoyed it, and don’t forget to go back and read the article at the end that focused on what to search for as you review your stories.

A few weeks ago, you learned about the physical setting, the first in the four types of setting we’ll cover in this year of mastering your craft. This is something I don’t always heavily add in the first draft because I know I’ll be doing major edits/revisions, but it’s a good way to leave yourself the gifts, mentioned in last weeks post, as you use those physical setting details to add the various elements of setting to your story. Remember that each character will notice different things, and certain locations have different meanings for individuals, groups, or societies. And before I get carried away in another post on physical setting, let’s return to the focus of today’s post, Social Setting.

What does the social aspect of setting address?

Social setting, until I began my research for this series, I thought little setting beyond the geographical and man-made setting details. Social setting is defined as “the culture or society in which the story occurs.” (leaderspress.com)

One of the easiest ways to think about a social setting is to think of locations where people spend large amounts of time together. If you think back to last weeks post, the setting of a mall can tell you a lot about the social setting of your society. Think back to the last time you went to a mall and ask yourself the following questions. Who did you see? What did you notice? Of those you noticed, did you add commentary about them? And, did they act within what you viewed as acceptable mall behavior?

All of those questions can give you insights into the social setting of your local mall. I think there are many consistencies you’ll find throughout many settings, but there are always minor differences in what’s acceptable where. Those minor details are what will help make your story unforgettable.

Why is it important?

Social setting is important because, even if people don’t want to admit it, what happens in your social settings matter. If you ever want to see someone drop most of their social setting barriers, then go spend time with them and their family. Especially if they’re comfortable around you.

But also, so much of what we do in reality is based on one, or a few, social interactions. Much of your preconceived notions of what’s acceptable in a situation are based on those few moments in your past that have made the largest impact on you.

How to use social setting in your writing:

Now, turn all of that information on to your characters. If your character is transplanted into a new cultural setting, look at how they learn the language, slang, or common interactions of the people. For example, often in stories you’ll see a mentor figure take watch over the protagonist as they experience the new world. Or it can be a knowledgeable traveler who saves the protagonist from some danger only to explain why they’re so stupid to have fallen into the trap.

Look at the diversity of the people in your world you’ve built. If you have everyone following the same belief system, let there be a good reason for that. Are there none who disagree? Or, look at why the dwelling places are built the way they are. Are those dwellings the most logical for survival? Or are they flashy with designs that contrast the people as much as they do the homes?

Set a scene in your world’s version of a market, or however goods and services are bought. Study what form of currency they use, if any. You may have a culture that works purely off of the trade of goods and services. The effect of how things and services are obtained affects how characters interact with each other, set social status, and show where the incentives lie in their worlds.


The Social aspect of Setting is a dynamic and ever changing part of your story/world. Remember that this part of the setting details focuses on the interactions of your characters with the world around them. There are many ways to use social setting, but you don’t need to use them all at once. Create a diversity of Social Setting details by sprinkling them throughout the story, as they best apply to that part. Using Social Setting details is a great way to add social commentary, whether in your own opinions or those of your characters.

Thank you for reading. As always, keep learning, keep writing, and stay fresh, my nugs!

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2 thoughts on “Types of Setting: Social

  1. Pingback: Myers Fiction Review: Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat – Myers Fiction

  2. Pingback: Types of Setting: Psychological – Myers Fiction

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