Sociologist, geographers, historians, writers, artists, and anthropologists have all been interested in the idea of ‘A Sense of Place’ for a long time. Why? Because this gives a place it’s character and identity, it gives people a sense of belonging in a place and an affinity with the locality. Some places can also feel uncomfortable.
So why does this matter with our writing? A good book can often give the reader a strong sense of why the characters feel attached to a place or a dislike of a location. When you can understand a person’s connection to a place, it is easier to understand how they respond and behave.
Wordsworth described places in his poetry in a way that was almost magical. I am reading Orpan Pamuk’s ‘Istanbul – Memories of a City.’ He received the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature for ‘Snow,’ and his descriptions are vivid and inspirational. I love to travel and this fuels a need to write about a particular setting and get ‘under the skin’ of a place, to think about what makes a location so appealing.
A few tips on building a Sense of Place into you Writing:
Description - describe the buildings, the feel of the air, what you see on the streets.
Detail - use images to add detail into your scenes – from photographs, online images, or go there and make some notes.
Geography – find maps and use Google Earth to look at the area. Is it wooded, on a cliff, on a river, compacted or isolated?
Character – think about why your character might feel an attachment to a place – do they have family there or did they spend a childhood in a particular place? To find out what makes your character tick, it is important to look at how they react in a particular setting.
Identity – The connection a child has with a place has been described as a ‘primal landscape,’ and psychologists say that this affects the decisions a person will make later in life. If you feed this into your characters it will add kick to your story.
How have you created a Sense of Place with you writing?
F.C. Malby is a short story author and a novelist. Her debut novel, ‘Take Me to the Castle,’ is released this week on Amazon in paperback and on kindle. The book is set in Prague and Letovice, in the Czech Republic, during the fall of communism.
You can find F.C.Malby on: