|Oregon Rain Forest Watercolor by Stephen Quiller|
Today, as I was writing a new story, my characters spoke to me in crystal clear voices. There was a reason for it. Morning brought a blissfully calm and quiet winter day, the ground muffled in a heavy blanket of wet, gleaming snow. It was a blessed reprieve after several days of intense lashing winds that kept my muse well tucked away someplace safe, while I grappled with a stabbing inner earache from the wicked drop in barometric pressure. Who could write? The weather was like a demon, and that got me thinking about how "place" and all the elements that create it can become a character in itself when penning a story.
A good writer builds a deep sense of location into every story. The land, the flora and fauna, the air itself, aren't just props on which to hang a plot. This tangible place, more than just a setting, can become the underlying pulse of your story. Think about books you've read that take you to another land - to ancient Britain, like Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy, or novels rooted in the deep South. The setting of the story becomes as palpable as one of the characters. Without the attention to that special "character" the story would be diminished, wouldn't it? We can even convey a a sense of refuge in our place descriptions, or imbue malevolence into our plots, simply by shifting the elements of place and giving it a different voice.
How do you create a vivid sense of place in your writing? Do you use an actual location as a model to envision your book setting? Or do you create a world from your imagination? Can your reader see, hear, smell, taste, and feel where they are in your imaginary world? Do you ask yourself, "would this really happen here"?
Share your thoughts and if you can, give an example of an author you think is particularly good at using this writing technique in their novels.
Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil, a free-lance writer, developmental editor, professional artist, wannabe gardener (God, can't I just play in the dirt?), and special projects coordinator for Little Pickle Press. You may connect with her at Facebook and at Twitter although she refuses to go online until after lunch.