Examples of setting descriptions

Texts used as examples in the module

Below you will find all the main pieces of text used throughout the module. You can use this page for easy reference and inspiration.

The Department of Mysteries, from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by JK Rowling

They were there, they had found the place: high as a church and full of nothing but towering shelves covered in small, dusty, glass orbs. They glimmered dully in the light issuing from more candle-brackets set at intervals along the shelves. Like those in the circular room behind them, their flames were burning blue. The room was very cold…

They crept forward, glancing behind them as they went on down the long alley of shelves, the further ends of which were in near-total darkness. Tiny, yellowing labels had been stuck beneath each glass orb on the shelves. Some of them had a weird, liquid glow; others were as dull and dark within as blown light bulbs.

Himmel Street, from The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Liesel made a clear circle on the dribbled glass and looked out.

A photo of Himmel Street

The buildings appear to be glued together, mostly small houses and unit blocks that look nervous. There is murky snow spread out like carpet. There is concrete, empty hat-stand trees, and grey air.

London streets, from A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (Stave IV)

The ways were foul and narrow; the shops and houses wretched; the people half-naked, drunken, slipshod, ugly. Alleys and archways, like so many cesspools, disgorged their offences of smell, and dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets; and the whole quarter reeked with crime, with filth, and misery.

Poplar, from A Skinful of Shadows, by Frances Hardinge

She could not imagine the world without the stink of coal, smoke and pitch that blew in from the great, clattering shipyards, the pattering poplar trees that gave the place its name, and the lush green marshlands where the cattle grazed. London lay a few miles distant, a pokey mass of menace and promise.

Rooftops, from The Shadow in the North, by Philip Pullman

They were in a little gully between the wall of the theatre, which reached up another seven feet or so to the edge of the roof, and the triangle, pitched roof of the pickle factory next door. A series of these triangular sections, like waves in a child’s drawing of the sea, led away for sixty feet or so, glinting wetly in the light from the low sky.

The drive to Manderley, from Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

This drive twisted and turned as a serpent, scarce wider in places than a path, and above our heads was a great colonnade of trees, whose branches nodded and intermingled with one another, making an archway for us, like the roof of a church…. On we went… and still this drive that was no drive twisted and turned like an enchanted ribbon.

The storm at sea, from The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

The tempest was let loose and beating the atmosphere with its mighty wings; from time to time a flash of lightning stretched across the heavens like a fiery serpent, lighting up the clouds that rolled on in vast chaotic waves

Helford and Bodmin rain, from Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier

How remote now and hidden perhaps for ever were the shining waters of Helford, the green hills and the sloping valleys, the white cluster of cottages at the water’s edge. It was a gentle rain that fell at Helford, a rain that pattered the many trees and lost itself in the lush grass, formed into brooks and rivulets that emptied into the broad river, sank into the grateful soil which gave back flowers in payment.

It was a lashing, pitiless rain that stung the windows of the coach, and it soaked into a hard and barren soil. No trees here, save one or two that stretched bare branches to the four winds, bent and twisted from centuries of storm, and so black were they by time and tempest that, even if spring did breathe on such a place, no buds would dare to come to leaf for fear the late frost should kill them. It was a scrubby land, without hedgerow or meadow; a country of stones, black heather, and stunted broom.

A great storm and winter weather, from Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

Chapter 9

It was a very dark evening for summer: the clouds appeared inclined to thunder, and I said…the approaching rain would be certain to bring him home without further trouble. However, Catherine would not be persuaded into tranquility. She kept wandering to and fro, from the gate to the door, in a state of agitation which permitted no repose…

About midnight, while we still sat up, the storm came rattling over the Heights in full fury. There was a violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or the other split a tree off at the corner of the building.

Chapter 17

That Friday made the last of our fine days for a month. In the evening, the weather broke: the wind shifted from south to north-east, and brought rain first, and then sleet and snow. On the morrow one could hardly imagine that there had been three weeks of summer: the primroses and crocuses were hidden under wintry drifts; the larks were silent, the young leaves of the early trees smitten and blackened. And dreary, and chill, and dismal, that morrow did creep over!

Satis House, from Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

Chapter 8

We came to Miss Havisham’s house, which was of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up; of those that remained, all the lower were rustily barred…

[I] found myself in a pretty large room, well lighted with wax candles. No glimpse of daylight was to be seen in it… I saw everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow. I saw the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes…

I took note of the surrounding objects in detail, and saw that her watch had stopped at twenty minutes to nine, and that a clock in the room had stopped at twenty minutes to nine….

It was then I began to understand that everything in the room had stopped, like the watch and the clock, a long time ago. I noticed that Miss Havisham put down the jewel exactly on the spot from which she had taken it up… I glanced at the dressing-table again, and saw that the shoe upon it, once white, now yellow, had never been worn. I glanced down at the foot from which the shoe was absent, and saw that the silk stocking on it, once white, now yellow, had been trodden ragged. Without this arrest of everything, this standing still of all the pale decayed objects, not even the withered bridal dress on the collapsed form could have looked so like grave-clothes, or the long veil so like a shroud.

Mary’s journey to Jamaica Inn, from Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier

It was a cold grey day in late November. The weather had changed overnight, when a backing wind brought a granite sky and a sizzling rain with it, and although it was now only a little after two o’clock in the afternoon the pallor of a winter evening seemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them in mist. It would be dark by four. The air was clammy cold, and for all the tightly closed windows it penetrated the interior of the coach. The leather seats felt damp to the hands, and there must have been a small crack in the roof, because now and again little drips of rain fell softly through, smudging the leather and leaving a dark-blue stain like a sludge of ink. The wind came in gusts, at time shaking the coach as it travelled round the bend of the road, and in the exposed places on the high ground blew with such force that the whole body of the coach trembled and swayed, rocking between the high wheels like a drunken man.

Grizehayes House, from A Skinful of Shadows, by Frances Hardinge

At last she wakened from a doze to find that the carriage was splashing along a rising road turned to soup by the rain. On either side lay bare fields and pastureland, the horizons guarded by a line of sombre hills. Ahead, behind a small coven of dark, twisting yews, stood a grey-faced house, graceless and vast. Two towers rose above its facade like mis-shaped horns.

It was Grizehayse. Although Makepeace had never seen it before, she felt an instant recognition, like a great bell tolling deep in her soul.