The setting of a story is composed of three distinct pieces:

  1. The TIME of the setting refers to an era or time period.  This can be very specific, such as the Great Depression, the mid-1880's, or the Disco Era; or it can be very vague, such as "The Future" or "The Past". 
  2. The PLACE of the setting refers to the actual location(s) where the story takes place.  When discussing the location, we usually discuss the smallest possible area that encompasses all of teh locations where action takes place in the story.  Thus, for a novel like No Promises in the Wind, the location might be generally discussed as being the United States, since parts of the story take place in Illinois, Nebraska, and Louisiana. 
  3. The DURATION of the story is the amount of time that passes within the story from the beginning to the end.  This has nothing to do with how many pages long the story is, or how long it takes you to read the story. 

The setting of a story can have a huge effect on how the story turns out.  For example, the story No Promises in the Wind can only take place if there are a very specific set of circumstances going on for the characters to react to; these circumstances are all occurring during the Great Depression in the United States.  There are a few other time periods and places where similar conditions were in effect; the story requires this specific setting for the events to make sense.

Setting is often conveyed through the use of imagery or sensory language, and it can greatly affect the atmosphere or mood of the story. 

Many good writers will usually reveal the setting subtly through the details of the story, rather than listing them up front. 

EXERCISE: Try to create a story that takes place in a specific setting, but DO NOT use the name or time within the story.  Reveal the setting to your readers through your use of details within the story.