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.
- Focus on specific details said the Scottish Book Trust’s blog.
- Use place like a character says Now Novel.
- Let key details connect with the characters psychological condition says Lucy Cruickshanks.
- Use all five senses says TheBalance.com.
- Engage with the details that give atmosphere says writersworkshop.co.uk.
- What it feels like trumps what it looks like says Evan S. Porter.
- Take me there with your words says Philip Hensher.
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.
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
When 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.