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5 tips for writing about place in fiction


Today’s guest is Yasmin Chopin.

I am often asked, “What there is place of writing?’ As a field of study, it is often associated with the more familiar genres of nature writing, memoir, travelogue, and autobiography. A location can be a home, a place you’ve visited, or a place you’re traveling through.

Writing a place in fiction is a skill worth developing. If a place is an important part of a story, it should be as authentic and integral as any character. When a place is more than a backdrop, it takes on a symbolic role that can be depicted in a variety of ways, from the name of the place to its architecture and weather.

The place of writing is most successful if the author had personal experience. Then it can be adapted to the story, embroidered, renamed under the pen of the creator.

Spend time on the page to highlight the differences. Sometimes it can be difficult to find an entry point, so look for a detail in the bigger picture and expand from there. Treat places as individuals, learn to love them, see them clearly in your mind’s eye, dress them up, give them conflicting characteristics, and take them through hell and back.

Maps have become common paratextual material; plausibility is enhanced by geogr. As any Thomas Hardy fan knows, a map can be a useful tool for the reader. In fact, Hardy drew his own to guide his complex plots. When he finished Return of the native, he sent his sketch to the publisher and insisted that it be included in the printed volume.

He wasn’t the first to use cartographic images to sell a book, and I’m not suggesting that you should do illustrations or that your characters should follow a map in their story, but if you expand a place significantly in your story, the reader can enjoy opportunities to dive a little deeper and delve into the mystery of graphic display.

The skills needed to write successfully about place are just as important for the fiction writer as they are for the poet and creative nonfiction writer.

Here are 5 tips you can take into consideration when composing your next piece:

1. Character development: The places you choose to write about can be real, fictional, or an imaginary fusion of both. Each of your characters will see the same world differently.

Let the reader appreciate the full description of the place from the point of view of the characters. The reaction to the location will vary depending on, for example, the time of day, seasonal weather conditions, or the character’s mood at any given time.

2. Sensory perception: Help your reader feel like they’re right there with your characters, so give them more than a purely visual interpretation of the scene—let them feel it, smell it, hear it, taste it. I think Cormac McCarthy is a master at this. In the following extract from All beautiful horsesthe main cowboy characters admire the natural beauty of the surroundings, and my reaction as a reader is visceral—my eyes burn, my throat tightens:

The meadows lay in a dark purple band, and to the west thin flocks of waterfowl moved northward before sunset in dark red galleries beneath the cloud banks, like schooling fish in a burning sea, and on the front plain they saw the vaqueros driving their cattle before them. through the top. gauze of gold dust.

3. Place as an anchor: A specific location, such as a meeting place, facilitates the exchange of dialogue and provides familiarity to the reader when it is used multiple times. Zoom in on at least one—like a playground, a coffee shop, or a hotel front desk—and let your readers get to know it well enough to describe it to their friends.

The film of Steven Spielberg Terminal (2004), starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones in a drama largely set in an airport terminal, is a fascinating example of location-based action.

4. Emotional triggers: Establish some important points in your story where your characters can be set up to experience good or bad or through which they can pass or migrate. The resonance of a place and the memories associated with it can evoke different states of being.

In literature, triggers become trope-like through repetition; they can be visual or auditory to evoke the exact emotions your story needs – a front door opening, a clock ticking, a merry-go-round spinning to the sounds of circus music.

5. Time travel: Time may be mundane in your story, but mundane events can seem extraordinary if you use the setting to dramatize them.

Place is a platform, a stabilizing force, just as the present is in your structuring of time; the place is the base on which time stands still when you want it to, or you can make it fly. As the author, you are the initiator of time travel, and the location helps you move the story forward or backward in the timeline.

A place can and perhaps should be more than just a backdrop for your story. Let it drive and define the plot. Give him enough space on the page to become the central character. Give it free will to be thought-provoking or fear-inducing. And let the reader become fully acquainted with your scenes.

Peer through the literary lens into the slits to find unusual details, then zoom out for a comprehensive sense of time and space.

Writing about a place can be demanding, but it’s a lot of fun. Make it work for you. Be happy.

Yasmin Chopin lives in Cambridgeshire, England and draws on her background as an interior designer and consultant to write about life, home and place. Yasmin offers mentoring services to new writers; contact her via her website or find her on Twitter @YasminChopin.

Selected photo of the author Allison Bacoor on Unsplash

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