Chasing Inspiration

Monday, December 05, 2011

Finding the Place

In two of my current works in progress (wip) I'm making up small towns on a very large lake not far from where I live. My past books have been set in Oregon and Florida. I decided to write a little closer to home while I work on creating a sense of place in my work. I live here, so you think I should be able to describe things well, right?

No. The art of description and creating a sense of place isn't necessarily connected with being familiar with a place. The art of description has more to do with how well you use words to portray the place to your readers. It helps to know how the place feels, smells, sounds, tastes and looks. It helps to know the flora and fauna and the weather. But you can be dry as a desert when you try to describe it to your readers.

For example, in my contemporary romance a house is almost a secondary character and I wanted to give people a feel for what the heroine sees when she returns to this house for the first time in years. I got caught up in describing the trim and how the paint had chipped off, leaving slashes of weathered gray across the colorful paint. I described the sagging porch and the weeds that were choking out the small herb garden along the walkway. Everything about this house was described accurately and well. But the description didn't portray the feel of the house, how it loomed on the edge of the water, how it appeared to be a whore trying to masquerade as a lady due to the garish colors the renters had painted the outside. The reader didn't get to sense that there was something lurking in the shadows or how Lana interacted with the house. In other words, it was dry and clinical and didn't give a true sense of what you (or Lana) would experience being there.

So I rewrote. And rewrote. And rewrote. Finally, I put the scene away and did some mind mapping on the scene using the senses as my guide. What did Lana see, hear, feel, taste, intuit, etc. With that information I went back to the scene and rewrote. I think I have it now. I think I have what I admire so much in Nora Robert's writing - that sense of being there and experiencing the place. I may have overdone some things, but that's what editing and first readers are for.

I wrote down the experience in my little craft notebook and will go back to that exercise during other scenes in the story where the location plays a vital role. And it will. I'm too impacted by my external world to not write that way.

Finding a place isn't this complex for every writer or every story. Some books I've read don't have a firm sense of place or location and it works for that story. My mind works differently so I'm sure my stories work differently. For me, it's not just about the plot or the characters but where and how they exist and the world around them. I find it all so fascinating.

Curiosity: When you read, do you find yourself longing to be there, right where the character is? Or does place impact you all that much?

No comments:

Post a Comment