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Saturn

A Sense of Place

A few days ago, I read a blog that included a quick checklist of good writing. I’ve looked for the blog and I can’t find it now, but among the items were characters that we care about, interesting plot twists and a sense of place. And it’s that last, a sense of place, that’s stayed with me, niggled at me and occupied my writing thoughts.

Here’s a bit of what I’ve been considering:

A place and how it’s described can reveal a lot about the POV character, since we’re seeing it through his eyes.

How a place is described can set/ reflect the mood of a scene. Therefore, deciding on what mood you want is necessary before you describe would be helpful.

As you’re describing a place, you can pick out details that add tension – what Donald Maass calls “telling details”. Picking out a specific detail can also be used to foreshadow something that will be important later – in fact, when I’m working out the plot, I’ll often glom onto a detail that hadn’t meant anything when I wrote it. Later, it becomes something very important to the plot.

Describing a place can also help in grounding your story in culture, time, technology, especially in the early chapters. You can distinguish your fantasy, war drama, thriller from every other fantasy, war drama or thriller out there by making it specific.

Be specific. The details make it real. They also give you something specific for your characters to do. (I have to keep my characters from drinking every couple of scenes and nodding like bobble-head dolls.)

How do you communicate a sense of place?

Comments

"Picking out a specific detail can also be used to foreshadow something that will be important later – in fact, when I’m working out the plot, I’ll often glom onto a detail that hadn’t meant anything when I wrote it. Later, it becomes something very important to the plot."

My subconscious does this a lot. I write something into a scene and don't realize that it's thematic or foreshadowing until later.

I figure the best way to communicate a sense of place is to let my character show what's important about the place to him or her.
Nod - exactly. I think my subconscious knew about this long before my conscious did ;-).