In any piece, a setting can infuse a narrative with a distinct tone, a mood that flows throughout or even permits the characters to demonstrate traits that would otherwise remain hidden from the piece. Unfortunately many settings have been utilized to the point of exhaustion from decrepit abandoned buildings to the city coffee shop.
Each distinct setting in a narrative can infuse a particular tone into the piece because of the preconceptions that every individual has regarding those settings. Most settings are not chosen based on the tone that they will set but because they will be relatable for the majority of the target audience but in choosing this route it creates and sustains the cliche settings.
Some of the most over saturated settings include; urban sprawl, office building, coffee shops, the sea-side town, the sewers, caves, hidden rural towns, decrepit abandoned buildings, schools, forests and swamps. Each of these settings carries a certain connotation and infuses a specific tone into the narrative.
In the Urban Sprawl setting(Cities or Suburbia) this is the most common setting for a narrative because the sheer number of audience members that live in a similar setting. The Urban Sprawl infuses believability and a tone of pressure, stress, to the piece. The coffee shop, the office building, the parking garage, the sewers and apartment/loft are frequently exploited in this setting. While there are a multitude of variants of these settings, the sense of normalcy that these settings evoke makes the narrative more believable but also less distinguishable from other works in a similar setting.
In the Rural setting, whether it's the hidden town on the sea or in the woods the setting adds a sense of peace and a tone of mystery. While there are fewer individuals of the audience that actually live in these settings the preconceptions created by these are far stronger. The audience will constantly be 'en garde' for the subtle hints of something else underneath the surface of the town.
The Hidden settings like swamps, forests, caves and abandoned buildings carry a tone of foreboding and sadness. Unfortunately these settings have been used by horror stories so frequently that the audience is just waiting for something to 'jump out' at them from the piece. Since far fewer individuals have actually experienced these settings, the layers of development and detail will be much greater to convey the same levels of tone that a familiar setting can do far quicker.
As a setting is utilized to build a relatable connection between the audience and the characters this also applies all of the knowledge and experiences that an individual has regarding a setting. When tapping into the viewer's knowledge it is important to note that not only will it be more readily believable but also that they may have more knowledge about the setting than the writer. It becomes a delicate balance of tone and believability. Drawing on popular settings can make a piece more believable but also less distinct.
What settings to you find that you draw upon the most and for what tone?