|*Photo taken by Yours Truly on my last vacation.*|
I've always thought that one of the greatest escapes in life is the simple act of sitting down with a good book. Without leaving the comfort of your own armchair, you can be transported into a whole other world. Well, the same goes for the writing of those books. As much as I love the idea of whisking myself away to a variety of exquisite destinations, as a writer, I do tend to write what I know it terms of location. Sure, I fictionalize the settings a bit and highlight some of the prettiest elements, but for the most part I draw on personal experience. Here's the thing, though: I only pick my favorite places - the places that inspire me the most. When I am immersed in writing a book set in that place, for a little while at least, I am there. And it's wonderful.
The real responsibility of the writer, of course, is to bring a story to life. This extends beyond the characters to include the backdrop. You have to transport the reader. I recently did a round of revisions on a book and as soon as I started going through it, I knew I had to change the location. Sure, the original location worked in the technical sense, but it really didn't add enough scenery to the story. Simply put, I wasn’t swept away. As soon as I changed that one element, I immediately knew that this was somewhere I wanted to be, and I paid special care in describing the sights, sounds, and even smells in a way that would evoke the same desire in someone else. After all, if a reader is going to invest a certain amount of time in the story, don't you think they want to make sure they really get everything they want out of their visit?
Here are a few things I consider when I am setting the stage:
- Climate. What's the temperature like? What do your characters wear? What does the air smell like? Like crunchy leaves? Like snow? Like rain?
- Architecture. Are the buildings made of stucco or stone? Tell the reader. They need to know where they are!
- Landscape. What kinds of plants grow there? Are there rolling hills or flat, open roads?
- Sound. Is it a bustling city filled with honking horns or a beach town with crashing waves? What's going on behind the characters' words?
- Color. Nothing brings a story more to life than a vivid setting. What color are the flowers and the leaves? What color are the doors on the houses?
Hmm...doesn't this give a whole new meaning to that old saying location, location, location?