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Difference Between Integral & Backdrop Settings


When learning to write a story or play, you need to describe the setting that your characters are interacting in. Setting is important because it helps readers understand and interpret where a character is and what time period the character is living in. Some setting descriptions are important to the story because they influence the plot while other setting descriptions are simply aesthetic.

Integral Setting

Integral setting is a setting that is essential to the plot of the story or script. This means that the story could not take place in a different setting or that a described section of the setting will become an important part of the plot. Integral setting is typically described in great detail, referred to often throughout the story, or is used to move the story along, set the mood or tone of the scenes, or used to reveal a theme.

When Integral Setting is Used

Integral setting is used to alert readers when setting is significant. When used effectively, readers will note key aspects of the setting because they are described in full detail or repeated throughout the story. For example, in "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin, the setting of the ocean and the waves are repeated throughout the story. This is integral setting because the tide was used to show a theme and set the tone, and the ocean was used at the end of the story to drown the heroine.

Backdrop Setting

Backdrop setting is setting that is visually imaginative and appealing to the audience but is not significant to the plot of the story. You know you are reading a backdrop setting description if the setting is not described in great detail or developed, and the plot of the story could happen anywhere. This type of setting is often nonspecific: it could be any city or any countryside, nor does it denote any specific time period.

When Backdrop Setting is Used

Backdrop settings are commonly used in stories that are very character driven. The setting is only needed so that scenes can take place and be understood by the audience but the real focus is on the events, the character's thoughts, or character relationships. Backdrop settings are commonly used in Nancy Drew novels, where stories are more focused on events, character interactions, and clues. In this case, the settings are backdrops because they are just used to illustrate the plot.

About the Author

Marianne Luke has been writing professionally since 2005. She has experience writing instruction manuals, research, fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and she also reviews Orlando local music for "Orange Ave Lab" magazine. Luke earned a Bachelor of Arts in technical communications and creative writing from the University of Central Florida in 2010.

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