Created By: NoirGrimoir on May 24, 2011 Last Edited By: Shnakepup on March 9, 2012

Sliding Scale of Setting Scope

How vast the world within a work feels to the audience.

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"Scope", in a literary context, refers to how vast the world within a work "feels". It's the difference between a universe that might as well stop once you reach the county line and one that seems to go one forever, stretching across deep space and time. Whether a story has a large or small scope has no bearing on how good it is, but in general, media with a large scope are considered more ambitious or difficult. Stories with large scope also tend more to be world-driven and plot-based, while works with smaller scope tend to be more character-based and introspective.

There is no precise way to really calculate scope, it's more of a gut feeling than anything else, but there are certain story elements an author might use in an attempt to give a story more scope. Things which contribute to the scope of a work include the distance across geography within which the plot takes place in, the length of time which it takes place in, and the implied impact of the climax across distance and time. Very often the scope of a work is closely related to how threatening the antagonist is. A Cryptic Background Reference, mentioning places or cultures that may have little bearing on the immediate plot, often serve to give a sense that there is a world out there beyond the bounds of the story. This and other forms of Narrative Filigree can give both scope and realism. A Fantasy World Map can also serve to increase scope and give readers a sense of scale.

Being a sliding scale, the discrete levels below aren't all-inclusive.

Level 0: The Room

Level 1: A Single Building

For when one room is too limited, but you don't want to strain the budget by forcing your set designers to come up with different settings. Bonus points if it's an office building or hospital and you can re-use rooms.

Level 2: The Same Three Places

The typical sitcom has three or four regular sets, with other temporary sets built as needed.
  • Friends: Monica and Rachel's apartment, Chandler and Joey's apartment, Central Perk
  • Scrubs: When not at the hospital, it's at JD and Turk's place or at Dr. Cox's.

Level 3: The City

The needs of the story require multiple locations beyond just a few hangouts, but don't extend the need beyond the city limits.

Level 4: Following the Rangers

The story moves from place to place, without feeling the need to define precisely where they are or how far they've gone. There's a lack of boundaries, a feeling of freedom. See also Walking the Earth
  • Knight Rider
  • A great deal of myth.
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is in Spain pretending to be Texas, but apart from "the South during the Civil War" it (and many other Westerns) are just generally in "the West".

Level 5: This Country of Ours

For when the work takes place in a defined local, but with an expanse and a variety.

Level 6: A Continent of Nations

Works that take place within an international context. The action can occur across multiple nations or within one nation informed by the presence of others. The point is that there is a larger world, of which the action is one part.

Level 7: A Whole World

For those works that seek to be epic in scope, building an entire world.

Level 8: The Universe!

For when one world just isn't enough. Galaxies also count.

Level Infinite: EVERYTHING IS MINE

Fuck it. Everywhere is my setting, everyone is my character, and you bitches can go cry about it if you don't like it.
Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • May 24, 2011
    Frank75
    One thought about the first type: From the thoughts of the character, we still may conclude certain things about his world. If he thinks about snow, he obviously can't be an African who never has seen snow.
  • May 24, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    I just got rid of all that stuff, it's pretty superfluous now that i think about it.
  • May 26, 2011
    LogicallyDashing
    This sounds like it would make a good amendment to World Building.
  • October 16, 2011
    LeeM
    Tolkien was good at this. Apart from all the maps, histories, philologies and other ancillary data, he's also very good at describing small parts of Middle-earth in such fine detail that the reader feels he's described it all.
  • October 17, 2011
    Koveras
    Cryptic Background Reference is a great way to widen the scope.
  • October 21, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Katherine Kurtz is also handy with this, especially in the Deryni works. One Myth Arc (the relations between humans and Deryni) takes centuries to resolve, and it isn't complete by the end of the last book in the timeline (to date, anyway--that could change). Arguably, the rivalry between the kingdoms of Gwynedd and Torenth isn't entirely resolved by that point either.

    I'd say some Narrative Filigree comes into this as well as the Fantasy World Map and the Cryptic Background Reference.
  • October 24, 2011
    PacificState
    Why not make it a Sliding Scale Of Literary Scope? Like, say, Batman is mostly city-wide, and sometimes it really feels like Gotham is the entire world, and most sitcoms feel like the world is limited to a house and a hangout place. And then there's stories like No Exit or You Wake Up In A Room which are literally limited to one single room. And then you have LOTR or Dune or Green Lantern which really feel like there's a slew of universe out there.
  • October 25, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    I had it like that but as I filled out the types I kept getting the feeling that it was pretty pointless. There aren't exactly easily designated cutoffs or even things especially associated with greater or smaller scope, so there seems little reason to make some arbitrary scale.
  • March 4, 2012
    CrystalBlue
    Bump. This is a really good one to have. :)
  • March 4, 2012
    surgoshan
    I agree. Might I recommend?

    Level 0: The Room

    • {{Film/1408}}

    Level 1: Home and the Bar

    Typical sitcoms have two or three main locations and occasionally build others when those don't suffice.

    Level 3: The City

    The needs of the story require multiple locations beyond just a few hangouts, but don't extend the need beyond the city limits.

    Level 4: Following the Rangers

    The story moves from place to place, without feeling the need to define precisely where they are or how far they've gone. There's a lack of boundaries, a feeling of freedom.
    • Knight Rider
    • A great deal of myth.
    • The Good The Bad And The Ugly is in Spain pretending to be Texas, but apart from "the South during the Civil War" it (and many other Westerns) are just generally in "the West".

    Level 5: This Country of Ours

    For when the work takes place in a defined local, but with an expanse and a variety.

    Level 6: A Continent of Nations

    Works that take place within an international context. The action can occur across multiple nations or within one nation informed by the presence of others. The point is that there is a larger world, of which the action is one part.

    Level 7: A Whole World

    For those works that seek to be epic in scope, building an entire world.

    Level 8: The Universe!

    For when one world just isn't enough. Galaxies also count.

    Level Infinite: EVERYTHING IS MINE

    Fuck it. Everywhere is my setting, everyone is my character, and you bitches can go cry about it if you don't like it.
  • March 5, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Surgoshan's list is pretty extensive! Although I would maybe add another level between 1 and 3 for "The Small Town" for something like Twin Peaks or We Have Also Lived In The Castle where we get more than a house but less than a city.

    Maybe split "home and bar" into "just the one house" (e.g. The Secret Garden) and "the small town"

    Another example for The Room is The Journey Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre, but not, weirdly, The Room. Isn't there also an Alfred Hitchcock film set entirely in one room? Also, many a Bottle Episode including the Friends and Doctor Who examples, but ignore those obviously if you don't want non-literary things.
  • March 5, 2012
    Arivne
    Calling it Setting Scope would allow it to cover all types of works, not just literary ones.

    And (as per Pacific State's suggestion above) calling it Sliding Scale Of Setting Scope would make it clear that it's a sliding scale, as well as giving it Added Alliterative Appeal.
  • March 6, 2012
    surgoshan
    Given that this is ten months old and more than five months untouched, does that make it public domain?
  • March 7, 2012
    Arivne
    ^ @surgoshan: Our Up For Grabs page says that YKTTW drafts that haven't been edited by their OP (original poster) for two months can be taken over and/or launched by anyone.

    Since the OP Noir Grimoir last posted here in October 2011, it is available.
  • March 8, 2012
    MorganWick
    Hmm. Level 8 is pretty broad, including any sci-fi that involves multiple planets.
  • March 8, 2012
    TomWalpertac2
    Level 8 example:
  • March 9, 2012
    peccantis
  • March 9, 2012
    Koveras
    Twelve Angry Men would be level 1, no?

    • Individual Dragon Age games are level 5 but the series as a whole approaches level 6.
  • March 9, 2012
    Damr1990
    for levels four onwards see also Walking The Earth
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