I was working up an idea I had for a new story the other day and it occurred to me that it didn’t seem to matter when it was set nor whether or not I made the period in time clear to the reader. But am I right to think this is the case?


Most stories I write are set very definitely in a particular period of time. For example, when I wanted to write The House of Spies, a story along the lines of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, it made sense to set it in roughly the same period, the decade or so before WWI.

In a similar way, I set Good Investigations in the 1980s because I wanted the period to be as recent as possible prior to those pesky things like mobile phones and the internet.

But there are times when I’m not much fussed about when a story is set. In these cases I usually end up going with a period that simply feels right. This has been the case with many of the stories in my Shorts in the Dark series.

Occasionally, however, there is no real need at all to make it clear the story is set in any particular period. In fact, I sometimes feel this lack of direction from me to the reader adds an unsettling element to the story that may enhance the reading experience. Or, maybe, like me the reader feels there is no need for such a statement; the story is enough in itself.

But am I right about this? What do you think? Can the story be good enough in itself not to need setting in a specific period of time or does that leave you wagging your finger in annoyance?

Image by Jeanne Rouillard on Unsplash









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