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World Building

Writing a sense of place according to the Internet

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I have to confess that I struggle with creating a vivid sense of place sometimes. Usually when the setting is relatively mundane – some town, some house, someone’s back garden. To help me overcome this weakness, I’ve looked at what the Internet has to say about creating a vivid world.

Why does sense of place matter?

It is the vivid and breathtaking “reality” of Middle-earth that makes Lord of the Rings work. Without it, you have a poorly written story about a bunch of characters wandering around and getting into trouble. The same is true for our own writing too.

Why is setting important? Mastering writing time and place

Use fewer words, not more

When I started this research, I assumed that I needed many more words to paint a good picture of the world my fiction is set in. This is not the case for a masterful sense of place.

The apex of our art is to suggest everything with a single, well chosen, word. Beyond that word, we can show the characters interacting with the world around them (show, don’t tell).

The more words we use to describe the setting, the slower the pace. So, like poets, we need to say as much as possible with as few words as we can. Here, at any rate, it seems words should be treated as an expensive premium.

Transport me somewhere new

may the muse be with youWhen telling a story we are trying to take people somewhere else using only words. This, I can tell you, is hard. I have no words of sage advice for you other than “good luck, may the muse be with you.”

Don’t let that stop you. Keep trying. Keep telling stories and trying to take me away to new worlds.

This is where I stop and hand over to you.

  • What are your tips of sense of place?
  • Do you find making the location vivid hard or easy?
  • Which books demonstrate a sense of place best?

Use the comments and share your insights.

sense-of-place

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew is a writer and Geek from Kent (UK). He is the founder and current chair of Thanet Creative Writers as well as head geek for Author Buzz. His ambitions include appearing on TableTop with Wil Wheaton and seeing a film or TV series based on something he wrote.

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