Sunday, June 27, 2010

Setting: It's All in the Song Title

By Kimberly Johnson

I’m on the interstate (I-20 E) and I’m thinking about the topic for this blog. My radio’s on 97.5 FM and my AC is on 5. All of sudden, my foot starts tapping (the other foot that is not on the gas pedal) along to Tulsa Time by Don Williams. It got me thinking:

“What does Tulsa look like in the summertime?”

“Is it hot as Texas Pete hot sauce on a fried chicken leg?”

I mentioned that episode to get you to ponder the setting of your next fiction piece or nonfiction masterwork. Setting is the time and place in which a story takes place. The purposes are 1) to create problems for the characters, 2) to provide a background for the events and characters, and; 3) to help understand the characters and their conflicts. For me, setting is truly important; I spend considerable time conjuring the perfect city, state and zip code for my good and bad guys to duke it out in. Sometimes I feel like a production manager on a MGM musical from the 1940s.

As always, the Nashville sound is a great template to bring into play when you begin to write the backdrop for the next Great American Novel. So, the next time you are driving on the interstate, switch over to the country station. Think about how you can produce an action-packed plot or weave a tale of romance. For inspiration, try these songs, the drama is built into the titles:

All The Gold in California, The Gatlin Brothers, “…all the gold in California is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills, in somebody else’s name, so if you’re dreaming about California, it don’t matter at all where you played before, California’s a brand new game…”

Cowboy Casanova, Carrie Underwood, “…He’s a good time cowboy Casanova, leaning up against the record machine, looks like a cool drink of water, but he’s candy-coated misery. He’s the devil in disguise, a snake with blue eyes, and he only comes out at night ...”

Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, “…See the alligators all a-waitin' nearby, sooner or later they know I'm gonna try. When she waves from the bank don't you know I know, it's goodbye fishin' line see you while I go. With a Louisiana woman waitin' on the other side, the Mississippi River don't look so wide…”

Alright, Darius Rucker, “…Don't need no five star reservations; I've got spaghetti and a cheap bottle of wine. Don't need no concert in the city, I've got a stereo and the best of Patsy Cline. Ain't got no caviar, no Dom Perignon, but as far as I can see, I've got everything I want…”

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