Understanding the Dynamics of Writing a Location: Advice from a Pro Writer
Location and space are realities of our existence that we don’t always think about actively. Have you ever really absorbed how the rooms, streets, buildings, vehicles, etc., are all full of the tiniest details that influence your relationship with them? Without those details, your immersion into reality would shift.
For writers, one of the most important challenges with their work is bridging the gap between language and the mind’s eye. If readers can’t envision how a scene pans out, they won’t be able to connect with your work. That’s why location, place, and space are extremely important for writers when they start building their literary world.
However, this is also one of the most challenging aspects of writing. Let’s explore what my experience with writing my famous short memoirs has taught me about writing place into a story.
Research and Conceptualization
The first step to writing place and location is, to begin with, the grounded details. Depending on whether you’re writing non-fiction or fiction, your research and concept stage will be different. If you’re a fantasy fiction writer, you may find success in exploring your imagination and working out the details via internal reflection.
For non-fiction writers or writers that write fiction based on the real world, I recommend doing plenty of research into real locations and time periods. This will help you get the conceptualization of the settings you’re writing about accurate and realistic.
Getting into The Details
The devil is in the details, which is why you need to be very careful of how you build up your written world. If you’re writing a memoir like I did or pulling from your memories, it might be useful for you to find pictures of the locations you’re writing about and pick out the details from there.
You may also benefit from another person looking through your drafts to see if your work lacks realism or enough grounding detail. This is the part of the process that’s the most tedious and irritating to get through but push through it and aim for perfection.
Adding Character to Location
Location and place aren’t just passive elements in any story or written work — they’re as important as characters and plots in telling the story. You should be making sure that the locations and places you write are connected to the people and narrative.
For example, my short vignette on how my father decided to travel to the US is one way to imbue location and place with value:
“But what is America? Joseph can’t see it, he can’t hear it, he can’t smell it. It is just a foreign land that promises honey on a map. He sees himself sailing on a ship with the mast touching the stars; he feels the swell of the sea under the belly of the ship and feels the wind as a thousand whips knotted together, moving the ship forward, away from everything he knows. Suddenly the Russian soil feels like sacred ground. He wants to pick up a fist full of dirt and press it against his cheeks. He wants the hills and the river to rise up and greet him. He wants to join the circle of earth, sea, and sky. How can he leave his city and his country? Wouldn’t he be leaving himself?”
This excerpt shows location and place can be written with details, and accuracy, and emotional value.
Get more inspiration from my collection of memoirs and stories called “Mirror Mirror: A Collection of Memoirs and Stories.” This book depicts my coming of age via a series of vignettes, available now on Amazon!