Setting (July theme) by Bob Krech

When I came back to the US from teaching overseas, I took a teaching job in a school district that sent all new teachers for seminars in teaching reading, writing, and math. In the seminar on teaching writing we were given an assignment to write about a memory of a childhood place and to try to utilize our five senses. We began with a web on the five senses, jotting notes along each strand.

I chose to write about the summer I was ten. I spent two weeks that summer staying with my grandparents and uncles in an apartment a half block from the Hudson River in what was then a very gritty, urban Jersey City. This is what 10 year-old suburban me's senses encountered.

See: block after block of apartment houses and stores, dirty streets, cars, trucks, the Hudson River, boats, little old grandmothers shopping and cleaning
Hear: ice cream trucks' music and bells, factory lunch whistle, police sirens, delivery trucks rumbling
Touch: dried, splintery wood from the docks on the Hudson River, rough stone and brick stoops, smooth Spaldeens for stickball, Jerry Geckle banging my head on pavement
Smell: Sabrett hot dogs from push cart on corner, Colgate's factory soap and perfume smell
Taste: Sabrett hot dogs with mustard, onion, relish, and sauerkraut! Cold, tangy, lemon ice from the push cart. (Jerry banged my head on the pavement because I threw a lemon ice at him. This was after he hit me with one first. I have witnesses!)

These notes were the very simple basis of my first paid, published story. Just jotting those notes, which were the framework of the setting, also turned out to be the catalyst for the story. Setting can be that strong of a force in writing and often a great place to actually start your story.


  1. Bob,
    It always amazes me how these sensory experiences make our memories so much more vivid and lasting. I still think of my childhood ever time I smell/taste soft serve custard and grilled hotdogs.

  2. LOVE how a story grew out of just a handful of notes.

  3. Great reminder to me that vivid details and memories fuel a vivid story!


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