4 Narratives with a Strong Setting

The Open Window by Henri Matisse

The Setting in a narrative or a fictional piece of work can refer to a period in time or a geographic place. Along with style, plot, characters, it is considered an important component of storytelling. 
Setting is not just the place or the background; it is the mood that dictates the story. 

There are many books and pieces of fiction where the setting is overwhelming, so much so that it decides how the story would move along. 

Here are a few of my favorites. 

1. Riders to the Sea by J. M. Synge 

In this classic play, it is the sea that forms the backdrop to this tragedy. It is the sea that shapes the life of the protagonists and it is the sea that is the witness to the tribulations of the inhabitants of the Aran islands. 

The sea is all pervading and it never leaves the subconscious of the characters or the readers. 

2. The Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

In this short story, it is the Arctic that is a strong contender for a character. Revenge unfolds against the “vast cool sweeps of ice and rock and sea and sky”. And as the central character Verna says that the landscape is uncluttered, which makes the story progress linearly towards a cold blooded murder. 

3. Matisse stories by A. S. Byatt 

In this collection of stories, three tales are masterfully written and inspired in some way by a painting of Henri Matisse. The stories are evocative and capture a relationship between seeing and feeling. 

Just like the paintings, the writing is vibrant and nearly explodes with color. 

4. Making a Mango Whistle by Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay 

It is the countryside in this delightful adaptation of the famous ‘Pather Panchali’ for children that shapes the world that the children, Durga and Apu live in. 

The forest around the tiny village is where the children grow up, exploring and experiencing. The monsoon swoops down suddenly and the forest transforms from being magical to something fearful. All through the book, the children embrace nature even more than the people around them. 

Dear Reader, please share the books and short stories that you like where the Setting is bold and influences the narrative strongly. 

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

Confessions of a Memoir Writer

Confessions, you say? From a memoir writer? Isn’t writing a memoir actually a confession of how things happened… to you or observed by you?

Writing a memoir is like diving deep into your psyche, examining your perception of events and people from a relatively safe distance, because of the passage of time.

A memoir is not an autobiography. It is not the entire story, starting from the beginning and ending with the demise. A memoir is a piece of the whole, cut deliberately, dressed with words of choice and served to fulfill. It is not the meal, it is just one dish.

Why write a memoir, I am asked by the sceptic in me. Because I want a piece of immortality, just for myself. Because I want to live on in my words. I am unlikely to produce a masterpiece for the world, but I can bring forth from my pen some memories, some snatches that make sense to my loved ones, to my children and maybe their children.

I can even connect with others, with people I do not know much about who I feel may be just as moved by my recounting for there is a universality of experience running through mankind, across continents and cultures. What I have to say may resonate with a lot of people.

How to write a memoir, is the next pertinent question that arises. I must first decide on the event I want to recount. Think about the critical choices I have made over the years, the people, and events that have influenced me, my beliefs, the challenges I have faced and the mistakes I have made. Find the one story that needs to be told. Then, bring forth my unique angle to narrate the story. Lend texture to the narrative by involving all my senses…

And now for the confession. I write memoirs, but I am in the closet. I cannot bear the thought of my friends and relatives looking over my shoulder, recognising themselves. They would get to know who I am, by my narrative. I feel too scared to hand out snippets of my life to others for them to examine. They would be read by my descendants, when I am long dead and gone.