STORY SETTINGS AND POETRY

Hi SEers! Denise here to talk about story settings and poetry.

Have you ever read a book and come to a passage where the description is so beautiful you had to stop and reflect on it? I have many times. These are words so skillfully written that I can see the sun setting or the grime on the dirty city streets through the character’s eyes. It has brought me into that moment.

A poem can also create a beautiful setting through creative images and carefully chosen words.

In fact, when I see a wonderful setting in a story, I think how poetic.

I’ve found that writing poetry, and the settings in my stories have a lot in common. Both are trying to see a place in someone else’s eyes. They use vivid imagery, emotions, and creative words to capture the reader’s imagination.

A setting in a book is trying to bring the reader into the when, where, and mood. Is the man wearing comfortable jeans or a wool suit? Does he have shoes, and is it raining? Are the buildings tall and oppressive, or is he walking along a forest path? Does he see an abandoned house in the country or the city?

In a poem, you have fewer words to work with, so each word is important to provide a picture to the reader. It’s a good place to show emotion or a moment in time while experimenting with new vocabulary.

Both offer ways to capture a beautiful or dark detail and arrange words so it pulls the reader into it. A story that races along with no details about where the main character is or how being where they are could affect them creates a flat reading experience. A poem without feelings or images is dull and lifeless.

How do you capture all that emotion and imagery that makes you think, wow, that’s amazing?

  • Where is this setting happening? City, mountains, desert, in the middle of the ocean, an office building, classroom, or on another planet?
  • What’s the weather like? Is it foggy, sunny, raining, hot, or a pleasant spring day? This creates the mood of the setting in a book or poem.
  • Use all the senses when writing. What does the character hear, feel, smell, taste, or see?
  • Show everything! Don’t say it was a hot day; instead, show it through their thirst and sweating. Maybe the ground is too hot to walk on, or they sat on a hot car seat and burned their leg.

Here are examples of a setting in a poem and a setting that is poetic.

dense foggy evening
all the flowers closed tightly
as darkness descends

As the night grasped the day, Dara found each breath heavier than the next. The beautiful red flower petals protectively closed around their fragrant sweet nectar. She rocked slowly as the fog swirled in and captured her garden bed’s last visual. A shudder raced through her body, and she tugged the wool green-plaid blanket over her sunburnt legs. The gentle sway of the chair soothed her like her mother used to do so long ago—before it all started. She shut her eyes when the scream of a thousand deaths forced her to clasp her ears. Beyond the heavy mountain mist, there was evil darkness lurking in the forest.

Both examples show when, where, and what is going on. It offers an image of that moment and perhaps draws you in, and makes you wonder what’s next. The setting can support the story, much like a co-star in a movie does.

When writing a setting, or poem, you are painting a picture. Have you ever had a wow moment when reading? Do you use poetic settings in your stories?

94 thoughts on “STORY SETTINGS AND POETRY

  1. Pingback: STORY SETTINGS AND POETRY – By Lily Nguyen

  2. Poetry does make us think about words differently, I agree. It is an amazing art form that can offer so inspiration and transport us to outside that box, Eden 🙂

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  3. Poetry’s word formations, rhythms, and patterns make me think about words differently. It’s like watching a movie or immersing myself in another art form to find inspiration for writing fiction — always good to think outside the box. 😀

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  4. Hi Denise, I have always been a victim of descriptive writing. I love to write about settings including mountains, flowers, and often the bushveld. Some people like it and some people criticize me for it. There are different types of poems, some hit hard with few words striking to the heart. These ones are usually about important and topical issues. Some poems are beautiful and descriptive focusing and the beauty in life. I suppose we all write what we feel.

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    • There is nothing nore beautiful or powerful than a descriptive passage that pulls us more into a story. To see a sunset or the horror of war it only helps bring the story to life. Poetry does the same thing on a different level, but all touch those emotions. All we can do is write what we feel, I agree.

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  5. Pingback: Stop by and say hi! #StoryEmpire #StorySettings #poetry #writingcommunity #indieauthors – Author D.L. Finn

  6. Great thoughts, and i fully agree with you, Denise! For me such a perfect story or poems means grabbing my notebook to write down all the fantastic words. Now i also understand why it is so important for writers also exercise in poetry. Thanks for these great thoughts and notes, Denise! Have a beautiful week! xx Michael

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  7. This is a fantastic post, Denise. Poetry was my first love when I began writing, and you said it perfectly. The right word choices are so important in poems because you have so much less to work with in the length. And there isn’t much better than being fully immersed in what you’re reading because of the incredible writing. I love getting lost in my own imagination thanks to a good book or poem! Thanks so much for sharing, Denise!!

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    • Thanks, Mar 🙂 With poetry finding those perfect words to fit has expanded me outside of the usual words I use. There is nothing like getting lost in a story or poem thanks to being drawn into it.

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  8. Truly beautiful writing makes me pause to savor the moment. I can see where writing poetry would improve how a writer uses description. When the balance between lyrical and plot works, it’s a marvel. Great examples!

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    • It is wonderful to be gifted that pause when reading when it takes your breath away. Poetry is a good place to explore and it took me a while to find a way to combine both. Thanks, Judi 🙂

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  9. Thanks for this great post, Denise! You know I love settings. Funny thing, when I first began writing fiction, I didn’t think I could adequately describe the character’s surroundings. I didn’t know how to form a picture using words. Now, I have to be careful to keep the descriptions short without losing the essence of the setting. Someday, I’ll try my hand at poetry. Love this post!

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  10. Reblogged this on PTL Perrin Writes… and commented:

    What do story settings and poetry have in common? When they’re done right, the reader becomes immersed and the story and poetry come to life. My friend and wonderful author, D.L. Finn, has some great advice on how to draw readers in.

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    • Thank you for the reblog, Patty. Poetry does have a way of brings things to life and applying it in a story, the same.

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  11. This is a thoughtful post, Denise. I love good poetry. I have read some poems that have touched my soul and have stirred my emotions. Poetry, as opposed to novels, relies on those well-chosen words, as you’ve pointed out. Good poetry reminds me of black and white photography. It can be stark and beautiful in ways that full color photography cannot.

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    • Thank you, Beem 🙂 Poetry can definitely touch our souls and make us think. It is those well chosen words that offer us an amazing experience poetry and novels. I like your comparison of poetry to black and white photography the offer a different and scaled back without the color in the world of contrast and shadows. Our words can do the same.

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  12. Great post, Denise. I think poetry helps us become better writers. Because of the conciseness, each word is important. Thank you for showing us how to create scenes. BTW, I love your examples. 💗

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    • Thank you, Gwen 🙂 I have been learning so much expanding my knowledge on new types of poetry that challenge me to express myself with a very limited format. Glad you enjoyed the examples, they were fun to write.

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  13. I’m a fan of description, both as a reader and a writer. I love when a prose in a novel transports me to a particular setting and I can immerse myself in it. I often stop and linger over a lyrical turn of phrase when I’m reading. As a writer, I tend to be descriptive, and often have to rein myself in. I usually write long then tighten when I edit. I also find it amazing that poets are able to evoke sense and mood with so few words!

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    • I feel the same way, Mae 🙂 I will offer a quiet bravo to the author when I run across something amazing. I take a mental note of what I love to read and try to bring that skill out in my own work. I’ve had to make some cuts with something I loved writing but it didn’t fit the story. Poetry has so much to offer writers on many levels.

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    • I have always written a lot of poetry and love seeing it. Although I had to actively add it into my own writing though, it wasn’t a natural transition for me. Thanks, Michele 🙂

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    • It does make you stop and reflect on the beauty of what you just read. I will have to check this author out. I love being pulled into nature.

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  14. Great post, Denise! I tend to think in dialogue and plot, so the setting normally comes later. Sometimes I’ll find a poetic bubble and whip out a sweet scene, but usually my settings get rewritten during my revising stage. I am getting better at describing things during the first draft. Practice makes perfect. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Yvette 🙂 Like you, I’m just thinking about getting the story down, the settings and creating those scenes comes later too. I do hope the more its practised that someday it will emerge more often in that first draft too!

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  15. This is an excellent post, Denise, and you gave great examples of how important it is to bring the reader into the setting with the character, to let them feel and see what the character is doing or feeling. Poems are such beautiful ways of expressing deep emotion in a few words. It’s the same with songs. I love songs that can tell an entire story in three minutes. Thank you for sharing this!

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    • Thanks, Jan 🙂 Poetry has helped me to start developing the skills to bring that into what I write. It was something I’ve had to actively do now. Songs are another great example, and I love the stories that they can tell in a limited format of a single song.

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  16. Lovely post, Denise. I agree with you about the discipline of the word count in poetry reducing the description to its essence. I do enjoy effective description in prose as long, as you point out, that it doesn’t pull me out of the story. Lots of food for thought here!

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    • Thank you, Alex 🙂 There is a discipline involved in getting to the essence of the description and I found that path through poetry. But overdoing anything would be equally as distracting.

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  17. When I first started writing fiction, my writing group said I suffered from “purple prose” syndrome. I did way too much in the way of beautifying my language. They nagged the desire out of me until I was pretty much writing with “white room” syndrome, with almost no description at all. Then I had to fight my way back to a happy medium. I try to do what you suggest now, and rely on plain language with the occasional poetic phrase. I know I still need to work on that, but when I land a gorgeous metaphor, it really pops. Some of my favorite authors have a lyrical voice, but I can’t pull that off on my own. Not anymore. I’ve been programmed to write nonfrivolous, concise text. Settings are one of the things I still work on the hardest and have the most to improve upon.

    Great post, Denise.

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    • I was pushed in the very same direction at one point too, Staci. A wise person offered me some advice to apply how I write my poetry into my stories, and the very thing I enjoyed reading. I do appreciate concise writing, but I also want be there in the story too. I guess in the end, we develop our own style and way of expressing ourselves, and I enjoy your style of writing.

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  18. A wonderful post about writing poetic descriptions, Denise. And beautiful examples. Writing descriptions is one of my favorite writing tasks, and I always have to hold myself back or I’ll wax too poetic! Lol. Your advice to use sensory words and be creative with language is spot on. Great post!

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    • Thanks, Jill 🙂 It does ground the reader. I’m with you about slipping long passages and limiting their use.

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  19. I dislike books that doesn’t contain descriptive settings. I hate feeling like I’m in “white space.” That said, it can be overdone – the key is sprinkling it bits and pieces throughout. Great post, Denise.

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    • I don’t like long, and possibly boring descriptions either, Harmony, and trnd to skip over that. But those poetic descriptions, if done right, are such wow moments for me 🙂 Thanks, Harmony!

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  20. Pingback: STORY SETTINGS AND POETRY | Legends of Windemere

  21. Pingback: STORY SETTINGS AND POETRY — Story Empire – yazım'yazgısı (typography)

  22. Writers hear a lot of advice to minimize description, but that doesn’t mean leaving it out altogether. The trick is not to overdo it, either by lengthy paragraphs about a setting, or by describing everything. I like your reference to poetry, in which every word has to count in order to create a vivid impression with just a few words. That’s what we should aim for.

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    • You are right that you don’t want it too long either, Audrey, good point. I tend to skip over long passages where it takes me out of the story instead of pulling me in. This is why I always think of poetry when I come across a well written description.

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