Tuesday, May 19, 2009


We all know that setting is important to a story. And while many of you are very adept at setting, it is definitely my weak spot.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I love country music. Lately I've been noticing how they create a set of place immediately, in just a few words. Because let's face it, 3-5 minutes holds a lot fewer words than a full-length novel. Songwriters, especially in the country genre, where nearly every song is a short story, are masters of succinctness.

Here are a few examples:
  • From Billy Currington's Good Directions - "I was sittin' there, sellin' turnips on a flatbed truck, crunchin' on a pork rind when she pulled up . . ."

Immediately we're drawn into the setting. With key words like "turnips," "flatbed truck," and "pork rind," we can infer that's he's in a rural area as opposed to a big city.

  • From Tim McGraw's Where the Green Grass Grows - "Six lanes, tail lights, red ants marchin' into the night . . . "

Sounds like the Metromess where I live :-)

  • From Carrie Underwood's Jesus Take the Wheel - "She was driving last Friday on her way to Cincinnati on a snow white Christmas Eve."

Time and setting all rolled into one short line.

  • From Kenny Chesney's She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy - "Plowin' these fields in the hot summer sun, over by the gate lordy here she comes with a basket full of chicken and a big cold jug of sweet tea."

He drops us right into the middle of the scene. We can imagine the dirt flying, even sticking to his sweaty arms and face.

  • From Taylor Swift's Our Song - "I was riding shotgun with my hair undone in the front seat of his car."

The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. What helps you convey that all-important sense of place in your stories? Do you struggle like me? If so, why not find a country station?


  1. I don't struggle with setting, but music can also help a writer convey a sense of place. I listen to music when I write, so a song that lines up well with a scene will help me to describe that scene.

    L. Diane Wolfe

  2. What's not to love about country music? The lyrics are right there in your face. Real Life. I never thought about how wonderfully the settings are drawn, but it's so true!

    However, as I'm writing in another continent two centuries ago, you can imagine my writing soundtrack is much different, but just as important to me.

    I'm sure my heroine, in her own way would want to be 'checked for ticks' though.

  3. Diane, you are so right about music creating a setting. Just like in the movies. We get a good feel for a place before they even mention where it is just by the music.

  4. LOL! Debra, I love that song. And though contemporary music may not be he best backdrop for your writing, you can still learn from it. Learn how to convey your setting in just a few words.

  5. Mindy! These are such great examples! I don't listen to country music so didn't know these. So fun!!

    (Okay, I hope I don't get kicked off the blog for not listening to country!) :)

  6. I'll try to overlook your inadequacies, Missy :-D

  7. I'm a reluctant country music listener but have become more habitual about it lately.

    Setting is something I struggle with too. I've used websites of places and my own experiences to try and describe wherever my character is. Once I wanted to describe a house so I looked at a real estate website and took notes as I perused the pictures. My imagination grew from there. (Thank the Lord!)

  8. Mindy,

    What a great idea! I love it!!


  9. Great post. I don't struggle with setting as much as I used to, but I'm like Debra, writing about centuries long past. My settings require a lot of research. One thing that helps me is movies. When I was writing my Regency, I watched Pride & Prejudice over and over. It helped me get the feel for the scene, the setting, and the time period.