Setting is where and when the action happens. While we associate setting with place and description, it is often intrinsically linked to character development too.
How setting the scene effectively creates character
We can be fooled into thinking that setting is setting and character is character, but often, it is through the setting that character is developed. Look again at our friends the lizards in the wild west. Discuss how the characterisation is based on our prior knowledge of spaghetti westerns and the old myths of the 'wild west’. We can almost visualise the gun-sling on the back of the pursuant lizard in this clip called Reptile race from the BBC.
Watching short clips like this without the commentary/sound tracks can be useful in paring back the triggers for our emotional reactions to the subjects. This in turn, can help us create emotional triggers in our writing. How can we create, in writing, the atmosphere the music adds to the clip? How can we create the sympathy for the ‘hero’ without the implication of the 'wild west’? How can we create the 'wild west’ without the visuals? There are a range of other clips that you may like to use for this type of activity.
Using the Reptile race video, listen to the audio without the imagery. (It may be necessary to listen more than once.)
Allow pupils to walk around the room to discuss their impressions of the central ‘characters’. Where do they think the clip is set? Why? Encourage the pupils to discuss individual details in the audio that have led them to their conclusions.
Take feedback. Ask questions such as:
- Where do you think the clip is set? Why?
- Which lizard are you ‘supporting’? Why?
- What can you see in your mind’s eye when you’re listening to the clip? What is it that helps you visualise the scene?
- What are the clues the audio gives us to the setting?
After the feedback, watch the clip with sound. Give the pupils a few minutes to think about their own response to the questions below and then allow them to discuss in pairs:
- How accurate was your imagined scene?
- Which experience led you to sympathise more with the lizards? (Audio or Visual) Why do you think that is the case?
- Did you change your mind about which lizard you supported when you watched the clip? Why/why not?
In your own writing, what ‘tricks’ might you use to create a stronger sense of place in your writing? In pairs, come up with three tips to create a sense of place in your writing. Share your three with another pair of students and agree the top three for your group, and then with another group of four. Share with the whole class.
You may find the pupil worksheet useful.